UFC veteran middleweight Chris Leben has emerged from retirement at the age of 35 to sign for the Bellator promotion.
Bellator boss Scott Coker announced the news last night during the ‘Inside MMA’ show on AXS TV after a busy week in which they also added former UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson and veteran heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov to their roster.
“He’s got some physicals to pass, but pending the passing of all his physicals, he’ll be a Bellator fighter,” Coker said. “From the very beginning, we made a public statement that we’re looking for the best free agents that make the most sense for our roster. … We have a great roster in place, we’re building fighters from the ground up, and when the free agents we want are available, we’ll go after them, as well.”
Leben was last seen fighting at UFC 168 in December of 2013 against Uriah Hall, and despite having a reputation for being one of the toughest fighters in the sport he quit on his stool in-between the first and second rounds, telling his corner, “I’m done” after having been rocked with strikes just moments earlier.
It turned out that Leben wasn’t just done with the fight, but also it appeared his career as a month later he officially announced that he was hanging up his gloves and planned to focus on coaching.
It seemed like the right decision at the time given that the loss to Hall was the fourth in a row for the fighter who’d initially come to the UFC via a memorable stint on the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter and gone on to log 22 fights in the Octagon.
Apparently the urge to fight has since returned though, coming just a month after he released a his eye-opening biography, “The Crippler: Cage Fighting and My Life on the Edge,” in which he detailed his troubled upbringing, fighting career and battle with drugs and alcohol.