Chris LebenUFC middleweight Chris Leben has always been one of the organization’s “bad boys” in terms of wild behavior. However, that could be changing, as Leben has done a lot of thinking over the last twelve months, apparently gaining some perspective on life and how his actions outside of the ring can have devastating effects on his success inside of it.

Leben is coming off a yearlong suspension for drug use detected after being beat down by Mark Munoz in November 2011. Though it was not Leben’s first encounter with a banned substance, it was a genuine wake up call as was the UFC’s subsequent decision to send him to rehab instead of issuing a release.

“I think that the year off may have added five years to my overall career,” confessed “The Crippler” in an interview with the UFC’s website. “I have been able to go back and work on some of my technical deficiencies that I wouldn’t have been able to work on when I’m getting my ‘A’ game ready to go in there and compete.”

“Sometimes when you’re fighting, you don’t have time to go back and change the fighter that you are because you’re not going to be able to complete that process,” he continued. “There have been several things that I was able to take a look at and improve. I really do believe that the time off has been priceless.”

Leben will have a chance to show off his new skills this weekend when he battles Derek Brunson at UFC 155. It may not be the most high-profile pairing of the 32-year old’s career but it’s definitely a special scrap in Leben’s mind.

“I think I’m more excited for this than any other fight in my life. It’s been a long road. For me, it really hasn’t been a year off; it’s been a year really dealing with other things, but to finally be able to get back to work – get back to what I do – and now to be doing it in such a different mind frame, it’s exciting,” glowed the 22-8 slugger. “The old Chris Leben would never been where I’m at right now – not even close. The edge is there. That sharpness is there, and at this level, having that edge and that sharpness – yeah, I might be a year older, but I feel quicker, I feel sharper, stronger, and younger than I ever have.”