November 9, 2011
Cung Le scores dream UFC bout
By NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency
For Cung Le, fighting in the UFC is a dream come true.
But Le admits he likely would have never stepped foot in the octagon if the world’s largest MMA promotion hadn’t purchased rival organization Strikeforce.
“(Strikeforce CEO) Scott Coker is a very good friend of mine and he’s been promoting me since I was a professional fighter,” Le told QMI Agency. “I think I would have just stayed with Scott.
“I would have missed the opportunity to fight for the UFC, but it all happened and I’m getting ready to fight Wanderlei Silva in San Jose for the UFC. It’s awesome.”
Le will debut against Silva in the UFC 139 co-main event Nov. 19. The card will be headlined by a light-heavyweight tilt between former Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson and former UFC titleholder Mauricio (Shogun) Rua.
Le was originally set to face Vitor Belfort, but an undisclosed injury forced Belfort off the card. Le said the shakeup didn’t bother him at all — he traded one legend for another.
“I was excited to be offered a fight in the UFC and when they said Vitor, I told them I accept the fight,” said Le, who can be followed on Twitter @CungLe185. “When they said Vitor got injured a couple weeks later and they got Wanderlei, I was just as exited as when they told me I was going to fight Vitor.
“It is an honour for me to be the co-main event in the UFC and this is definitely the biggest fight of my career.
“I get to fight a legend of the sport and I’m excited for it.”
The odds of this fight turning into a grappling match are about as good as Kate Moss chowing down on a Double Big Mac.
A sanshou kickboxer with a dazzling array of kicks, Le is excellent at keeping opponents on the business end of his shins and feet. When the action gets up close and personal, he’s proven to have enough stopping power in his fists to give any middleweight a serious headache.
Silva, on the other hand, is a berserker. He likes to get inside the pocket and club opponents with heavy punches. And though it’s been a while since he’s utilized them, Silva’s knee strikes are devastating.
“I’m excited about his pace and his commitment to looking for knockouts,” Le said. “He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to show up just to pull a paycheque. He’s there to fight. That’s very exciting for the fans and for me because I know I have a big fight on my hands.
“He’s got big, strong, power punching and he just comes forward. I’m ready to work my angles and stick-and-move.
“I’ve got a lot of weapons and I plan to use them all.”
In order to prepare for UFC 139, Le said he’s called upon American Kickboxing Academy teammate Muhammed (King Mo) Lawal to duplicate the former PRIDE champion’s style and pace.
“One good thing about AKA is I don’t have to bring in any sparring partners because AKA is loaded with high-level fighters and I get to spar with the best every single day,” Le said. “My main sparring partner is King Mo and he definitely does a great job of imitating Wanderlei.”
A former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Le put aside fighting for over a year in order to pursue a movie career, working with actors Russell Crowe and Jean-Claude Van Damme. His final appearance for the California-based MMA organization saw him score a knockout victory over Scott Smith in June 2010.
Despite not having competed in 17 months, Le said he doesn’t expect any ring rust when he faces Silva.
“I just came off filming three movies last year: The Man with the Iron Fists, Dragon Eyes and The Grandmasters,” Le said. “Ever since I came back in late February, I’ve been training. So I’m ready for this fight. I know a lot of people say I’ve had such a long layoff, but I’ve been training since late February.”
After achieving success outside the cage, many thought Le was done with fighting and entering a completely new chapter in his life.
That’s when the UFC rang.
“Lorenzo (Fertitta), his receptionist e-mailed me to set up a meeting,” Le said. “I came out there, met with them and they offered me a fight with Vitor in San Jose and I accepted. I’ve been fighting on many different platforms and I think the UFC was always a dream for me to fight with. It became a reality that day.”