Leben scared of Wanderlei Silva, his next opponent

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:13 AM ET

TORONTO - Scared isn’t a word you would think is in Chris (The Crippler) Leben’s vocabulary.

The tough UFC middleweight always comes out aggressively, throws bombs and looks to put his opponents away in spectacular fashion.

Despite first lobbying for a fight with Wanderlei (Axe Murderer) Silva a year ago, Leben admitted his UFC 132 opponent scares him.

“He’s an animal,” Leben said on a UFC conference call, with a laugh. “There’s nothing more motivating than the fear of a coma.

“Honestly, I’m so excited to fight Wanderlei Silva. He’s one of my heroes. Don’t tell him this, but when I first started fighting ... I used to try and emulate some of the stuff he did. You’ve got to beat a legend to be a legend and for me to be fighting one of my heroes — I’m so stoked. The passing of the torch is kind of what I’m hoping for here.”

Leben said he plans to use his fear as fuel to knock out the MMA legend.

“A little fear is good,” Leben said. “I might be a little worried, but I’m going to get in there and do what I do. As men, that’s what we do. We look our issues, our fear, in the eye and then we conquer them.

“I’ll admit I don’t like fighting. I like the training and everything else, but the day of the fight ... If anybody says they love it, they’re probably lying to you. But there’s so many benefits with what we do.”

In what will no doubt be an exciting slugfest, Leben and Silva meet in the UFC 132 co-main event July 2 in Las Vegas. The card will be headlined by a bantamweight title match between champion Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber.

Silva hasn’t fought since winning a unanimous decision over Michael Bisping at UFC 110 almost 17 months ago. He was set to meet Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116 last July, but was forced to pull out due to cracked ribs and then had knee surgery.

Ironically, Leben stepped in as a replacement and submitted Akiyama with a triangle choke in the third round to cap off a wild brawl.

Though he won his previous fight, Silva said he needs to prove he’s as vicious as ever.

“This fight is really important for me after a year out,” Silva said. “It was a hard year for me. I trained really hard for that (Akiyama) fight.

“Now I’m fighting a guy who I think is really going to want to fight with me. My other opponents run. Some guys stand in front of me for a couple minutes and then they start to run. I think my next opponent is really going to come to fight. We’re going to put on a great show July 2nd.”

Silva was originally offered to face former Marine Brian Stann, who knocked out Leben at UFC 125 in January. Silva turned down the bout because he didn’t want to get booed for punching an American hero.

The UFC then offered him Vitor Belfort, but Silva seemed disinterested and continued to rally for a fight with Leben.

The former PRIDE champion eventually agreed to face Belfort, but the fight was cancelled when UFC brass decided to give Silva the fight he wanted.

Silva’s reasoning for calling out Leben is simple: It will be exciting for the fans.

“He’s a good fighter; sometimes he talks a lot, but he fights well,” Silva said. “(People) ask me why I want to fight Chris Leben. He has a style like my style. He fights like me. I know we can have one of the best fights of the year. I don’t know about him, but I love money and want the cheque for best fight of the night.”

Leben admitted he was flattered by Silva’s compliment, but said hero worship won’t be an issue when they step into the octagon.

“I’ve definitely fought guys that I thought were better fighters than me at the time,” Leben said. “Truth be told, I ended up winning those fights. Looking back on my career, I’ve won a lot of fights that, on paper, I should have lost.

“How do I handle it? It’s pretty easy to switch gears once they start swinging at you.”

This and that

Both Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum are blaming each other for their boring main event on last weekend’s Strikeforce card. Overeem is angry Werdum kept flopping to the mat, while Werdum is annoyed Overeem wouldn’t willingly play the submission game. Got to side with Overeem here. If you want to fight on the ground, take it there. Don’t just lie down, expecting a kickboxer to enter your guard ... Both Faber and Cruz said they will act like professionals and shake hands after their fight on July 2. But Faber was quick to point out on a UFC conference call that part of their beef stems from Cruz’s bitterness over his quick defeat the first time. Ouch ... Despite being good friends with Faber, UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones admitted in an interview with SBNation.com that he’s picking Cruz in the rematch. Double-ouch.


Videos

Photos