On less than two weeks notice, could you ask for a better replacement opponent for Wanderlei Silva than Chris Leben? Sure, you’d have to make some adjustments to your gameplan, but it’s not like you would be suddenly tasked with fighting a collegiate wrestler or a jiu-jitsu ace. Well, if you’re Yoshihiro Akiyama, the answer to the question is yes, yes you could find someone better than Chris Leben. In fact, Akiyama is sorta demanding it. Translated by Fighters Only:
“I am not pleased with the change. There are just ten days left until the contest for me to determine [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.
“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.”
As of this moment, Chris Leben has not officially been announced as Wanderlei Silva’s replacement, so there’s still a chance Akiyama gets his way and either fights someone else or doesn’t fight at all. Either way, he’s not going to win over any UFC fans by being picky and threatening to pull out, especially the ones who were introduced to MMA through TUF.
Update: MMA Junkie is hearing Akiyama has agreed to face Leben despite his qualms with the situation.
Update 2: Yoshihiro vs. Chris Leben is official.