Le balancing acting and fighting, prepared for UFC victory
Cung Le is the definition of martial artist.
His lifelong dedication to training has yielded him a successful career as a kickboxer and even a place on the big screen.
But, at UFC 148, Le's lengthy martial arts’ journey brings back him to Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, where he faces Patrick Cote, searching for something he has yet to accomplish: earn his first UFC win.
Le, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion is one of the sport's most dynamic fighters, if he finds the proper amount of time to train at a high a level between his roles in Hollywood as a supporting actor. In his loss to Wanderlei Silva in late 2011, Le tired as the fight progressed due to his lack of regular training prior to entering camp. However, on Saturday night Le believes Cote will be facing a superior fighter than the one he saw in his Octagon debut.
"First of all, I'm very excited to be fighting at UFC 148 which is one of the biggest cards of the year," Le recently told Heavy.com. "And second, I'm very excited to fight outside of San Jose. It's been so long fought since I fought in Vegas, I remember it's been since K-1 in 2004, so I'm excited to get back to Vegas and rock and roll out there.
“This time my training camp... it's definitely a lot better than the last one. I didn't get too banged up like the last one and I trained smarter this time. I trained harder and smarter. I'm very excited about my opponent, Patrick Cote. He's going to come forward, and I have a feeling he's going to try and take me down and do a little wrestling. He's mentioned that he's trained with the national team, but I've been wrestling pretty much since Junior High, High school, and college, so if he wants to test the wrestling I'm ready.”
Cote's career lies in fighting, whereas Le's talents have blessed him with the option to have a career on the big screen as well. The downside is the lack of training available for him between fights when he's traveling and on set filming.
With that being said, Le addressed the problems that played to his downfall in his most recent loss and, at 40-years of age, he's used his wisdom in the fight game to make the proper adjustments prior to facing the heavy-handed Canadian.
"My last camp I spent my whole camp over there at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) and I got a chance to train with all the top guys," Le said. "But the one thing about that is that when you train with all the top guys, whether they're bigger or smaller, they're there to get ready for their fights. So, every day it's like 185-percent all day, every day and sometimes you need to go in and you need to have a couple days on heavy and a day off. Like for me, this time instead I trained with my coach Javier Mendez, I brought in Scott Sheeley from Ohio, who trains Matt Brown and Justin Edwards, just to manage my camp.
“This camp was more catered for me, and I had my group of guys just solely focused on me; a little more selfish, but it actually worked out a lot better. Maybe offseason would be great to go learn new stuff from the guys at AKA, but when you're getting ready for a fight and you're focused on someone who has a specific style you just kind of have to be selfish."
With the newly minted Sheeley added to Le's preparation for UFC 148, it brings a fresh change for a man that has spent nearly his entire life fighting and once again brings him the opportunity to continue to evolve as mixed martial artist, regardless of his age.
"Coming from a traditional martial arts background and evolving into a mixed martial artist, I always keep an open mind and I'm always learning," Le said. "But at the same time, I'm not 20 or 30 anymore, so going in there and grinding everyday broke me down my last camp.
“It's go time for me and (time to) get back to what I do best, which is fight my fight instead of trying to fight just wrestling or go for the takedowns... Working on speed, working on angles, working on changing angles, working from punching-kicking to takedowns. I've been working that more for this camp. I'm excited to get back in there fighting someone who's game, confident, and who's really cocky. I'm really cocky."
In order to return to the electrifying form that saw him break Frank Shamrock's arm with a barrage of kicks to capture the Strikeforce middleweight championship four-years ago and find success versus Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139 before running out of gas, Le has sought balance between his life inside the cage and out of it.
As a blossoming action actor, Le continues to watch his film career develop, while attempting to maintain a career in the top mixed martial arts promotion. Finding sufficient time for both careers used to prove difficult for the striker, but he now finds himself close to mastering the balance between his two passions.
"I didn't get it down pat yet. We'll find out if I get it down depending on my performance at UFC 148. Definitely before Wanderlei Silva, I was gone for four months straight. I got the chance to come home twice; once for Thanksgiving and once for Christmas with my two nights and three days. It was tough being away from my kids, and my wife just had a baby. My son was only four months and I was gone for four months, it was definitely tough on me, and now that the roles are getting bigger it's not like I can go out there and train like a fighter.
“So, when I got back into it, like I said, I jumped right back into it. I signed with the UFC and I started training hard at AKA, and my body wasn't used to that kind of hard training and it broke down fast. But this time, I listened to my body and soon as I feel tired, I took a day off. And a lot of people ask, 'Would you rather get the workout in or would you rather rest and recover?' Most people say, 'Get the workout in,' but this time, for me, I had to say I'm getting the rest and recover. Then when I rest and recover and come back in I feel like 185 percent... I'm definitely learning how to balance and so far, so good.
“I'm blessed with this opportunity to do movies and fighting. I feel very blessed and I'm going to keep it going as long as I can and eventually slide into doing the movies."
How long Le will "keep it going" likely depends on his performance Saturday night against Cote, a man who once fought for the middlweight championship and is making his return to the UFC following a 19-month absence in which he compiled a four-fight winning streak.
Needless to say, the action is primed to be fast-paced, and Le is happy with where he stands at this stage in his career leading up to facing Cote.
"Every fight is like a new experience for me, I enjoy it so much (and) that's why I'm still fighting. I'm 40 already and I take really good care of myself, I'm happy that I can still run circles around some of my younger guys in their 20's that are just full of energy and they come in they have no control and they swing for the fences, so it feels good when they're gassed out and you're catching them with stuff. It's definitely a great experience to do it at a high level for such a long time. I'm pretty happy and I'm doing it naturally, too."
Check out our UFC 148 video interview with Cung Le