After hearing the news that Wanderlei Silva had pulled out of their fight at UFC 116 due to injury and Chris Leben had been drafted in at short notice to be his replacement, Yoshihiro Akiyama quickly climbed on his high horse and started having a good old moan about the situation.
“I am not pleased with the change,” Korean MMA site sports.media.daum.net reports Akiyama as having said. “There are just ten days left until the contest for me to determine [Chris Leben’s] threats and the time is insufficient to establish a tailored gameplan. Leben is also not as high-profile as [Wanderlei] Silva and that does not help me.” – Translation by Fighters Only.
“If there is to be a replacement I was hoping for a big name. I spent one year preparing hard for this fight and this news has come as a big disappointment, my motivation has waned. I do not know yet what will happen. .. In the worst case, I will not take part in the [UFC 116] event. We are working hard to resolve this issue.”
On one hand it’s understandable that Akiyama would be disappointed. He was originally scheduled to face Silva at UFC 110 in Australia, but was then bumped off the card with Michael Bisping being favored instead. He then agreed to sit on the sidelines for an additional four months in order to still face the former PRIDE legend.
So yes, it’s definitely an unfortunate sequence of events, but voicing his displeasure at Silva’s replacement and suggesting that he might pull out of the fight is hardly the right way to go here.
Who was he expecting at such short notice anyway? Surely after not having set foot in the octagon for a year he should just be relieved that an adequate replacement was found with just two weeks to go.
Leben may not have Silva’s star power, but he’s far from a complete unknown. Though is form is somewhat patchy he still holds a career record of 20-6, 10-5 in the UFC, and just defeated a fighter in Aaron Simpson who many had tipped for big things at 185lbs.
‘The Crippler’ also possesses a similar skill-set to ‘The Axe-Murderer’, so it’s not as if Akiyama has to completely overhaul his game-plan in order to face him.
Hopefully it was just some words spoken in the heat of the moment by the Judokan and he won’t back out of the fight. Needless to say if he did so it would leave the UFC in a very awkward position and he would undoubtedly incur the wrath of Dana White who is big on having his fighters be ‘team players’.