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Former UFC star, San Diegan Chris Leben details serious COVID battle

Former UFC star, San Diegan details serious COVID battle
Posted at 4:43 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 20:21:16-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - From his hospital bed, former MMA star and San Diegan Chris Leben says he’s grateful amid an ongoing battle with complications from COVID.

“I’m still alive, man. I’m still here, and for that, I'm so grateful,” said Leben.

That was Leben in a social media post on Sunday.

Days later, he talked to ABC 10News on Zoom about his battle with complications from COVID.

Leben, a former UFC star and contestant on the reality show "The Ultimate Fighter," had just opened the combat sports gym, The Training Center, in Pacific Beach, when he became ill in mid-January.

“Low energy, dragging,” said Leben.

The 41-year-old Leben tested positive for COVID and had relatively mild symptoms, before testing negative on January 26.

But within a week, he was hospitalized with heart issues and breathing problems, which developed into several lung conditions, including double pneumonia.

"It was horrible. It was like I was drowning, and just fighting for a breath,” said Leben.

Two weeks ago, Leben was placed on a ventilator.

Before he was placed on the ventilator, he clung to thoughts of his 4-year old son Liam. Nearly three days later, he was removed from the ventilator.

“I was ready to tap out, and the reason was I didn’t tap is because of my child … If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have had the fight to get through those days,” said Leben.

Leben is feeling much better, but he says his fight to recover is just beginning. His lungs are in rough shape.

“Everything is damaged and scarred 100%,” said Leben.

He says his doctors tell him a full recovery is possible. Leben vows to battle on.

“Fight my way back to 100%. To have that opportunity, it’s such a blessing,” said Leben.

Leben retired from combat sports last year, but his goal is to recover and compete in jujitsu.

He declined to talk about his vaccination status. This was his second battle with COVID.