On Sunday night retired UFC fighter and perpetual fan-favorite Chris Leben took to the Internet to unload a tweet packed with regret, and the message contained within that 140-character limit was powerful enough to resonate with all who read it. The tweet has since been removed from Leben’s timeline, but here it is as he posted it:
I wish I would’ve drove truck last 10yrs, then at least is have insurance to see a counselor. Ufc left me broken with nithing
— Chris Leben (@cripplerufc) February 16, 2014
As a member of the inaugural season of TUF, and part of the vanguard of fighters who helped take the UFC from fringe to mainstream, Leben always has and always will hold a special place in our hearts. He gave all before the camera, gave all nearly every time he set foot in the cage, and though he was far from the best, he was at least the best at ensuring that his life was a roller coaster of thrilling wins via knockout and submission and failed drug tests and suspensions. Leben was our messed up kid brother with a heart of gold, the baddest f**k-up around, and when he retired on his stool at UFC 168 in December – retired from fighting altogether – we were happy for him, as he’d done enough.
But Leben’s moment of despair on Sunday night hacked a bloody piece off of that good feeling. Sure, we appreciated all that Leben gave us in the cage, and based on the number of bonuses he racked up, it had to have been worth it to a certain degree for him – right? But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe, with his fighting days receding in the rearview mirror, Leben can now fully assess the toll it all took, and when he sees what he got out of it, he’s realized it wasn’t really worth it. Leben fought because he was good at it, but above all, because we like watching him and wanted to see it. Which means, ultimately, that we got the better end of the deal. We have highlight reel clips of Leben stricken dumb and zombie-like, and winning fights in that condition; in turn, he has regret.
And what sucks about that is that it’s partly our fault. Because if we’d never wanted to see more of him walloping and getting walloped, then maybe he would’ve become that truck driver with insurance, and he’d be seeing that counselor for his demons. Of course, it’s possible (and even probable) that his substance abuse issues would still be a factor in his life, and maybe he still would never had paid taxes, so our culpability as fans wanting to see him give blood is lessened a bit. But not completely. Not enough to make our hands 100% clean.
Thankfully, Leben’s plight and cry for help did not fall upon deaf ears. Here’s what he tweeted soon after the first one:
Means a lot that Dana and the UFC care and have reached out
— Chris Leben (@cripplerufc) February 17, 2014
Does this story have a happy ending? Probably not, but as fans who created the need for more Chris Leben in the cage, driving the market with demand, it’s our duty to hope.