Photo from Dave Mandel
“The Ultimate Fighter 1” veteran Chris Leben was discovered to have a serious medical condition that allows just 18 percent of normal blood flow to his heart. Swedish website MMANytt.com first reported Leben’s health issues on Tuesday.
“We are saddened to hear of Chris Leben’s current health situation and would have loved to see him compete inside the Bellator cage,” Bellator President Scott Coker said Tuesday in a statement released to Sherdog.com. “A fighter’s health and safety is of the utmost importance to us as an organization. We wish Chris the best in his future endeavors and we are happy to help provide a platform for him to share his story with people around the world.”
According to a statement from the ex-fighter’s management team, Leben failed several EKG tests as part of the medical examinations required for him to compete in Bellator. An echocardiogram revealed that Leben’s left ventricle is oversized, preventing blood from flowing through his heart at a normal rate.
Leben has received multiple medical opinions, according to the statement. One doctor believes that Leben should consider a heart transplant, while another is hopeful that medication and healthy living can improve his condition.
“Doctors suspect that this serious ailment is due in large part to the fighter’s notorious hard living. Leben has suffered from extreme opiate addiction, alcoholism, and medical and psychological issues throughout his life,” the statement read.
Leben announced his retirement from MMA in 2014. Coker revealed Bellator’s plans to sign him last month, provided that “The Crippler” pass his physical. Leben has had multiple run-ins with the law outside of the cage, twice for alcohol-related offenses, and most recently, for an alleged attempt to break into his estranged ex-wife’s residence. Additionally, Leben was suspended in October 2008 after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol following a loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 89 and again in 2010 after testing positive for oxymorhpine and oxycodone after a defeat to Mark Munoz at UFC 138.
“Leben’s health issues are not the only obstacle ahead of him. Unable to earn a living as a fighter, and faced with mounting medical bills, his financial situation is dire,” the statement read. “Leben is making ends meet as a part-time coach at The Arena MMA gym in San Diego and is studying to earn a real estate sales license, which he will hang at Keller Williams East County near San Diego.
“Leben also hopes to leverage his many life lessons for the benefit of others. He plans to devote time to communicating with young people and the MMA community about the dangers of drug use and about how to cope with addiction.”
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