by Mick Hammond
Since the announcement that California State Athletic Commission had finally approved MMA rules for events outside of Native American casinos, the community has been buzzing about the first state-sanctioned event taking place this weekend in San Jose. Among the featured fights on the undercard of highly anticipated showdown between Frank Shamrock and Cesar Gracie is the MMA debut of San Shao superstar Cung Le.
Le, who had shot to fame through K-1 PPVs and via exposure on Martial Arts specials produced by the likes of the Discovery Channel, will be entering into a cage for the first time in his fighting career to take on an old adversary in front of his hometown crowd. Recently MMA Weekly caught up with Le as he finalized preparations for his match to discuss the fight and his future inside and outside the combat arena.
MMA Weekly: It’s almost here, you’re just a few days away from making your MMA debut, how are you feeling Cung?
Cung Le: I’m very nervous but excited. I feel my preparation has been well balanced from the stand up to the ground to the takedowns. I’ve been working with the guys over at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy), especially Javier Mendez working with my boxing and Garth Taylor with my Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve got a lot of good sparring partners there and all my students/fighters who have stepped up and given me rounds.
MMA Weekly: I understand you’re quite familiar with the opponent you have lined up in this fight.
Cung Le: Yes, I fought him back in 1999, he took a San Shao fight against me on short notice. He’s a tough fighter out of Houston named Mike Altman. I don’t know much about him as an MMA fighter but I know him as a San Shao fighter. He’s got really heavy hands and good takedown defense. He’s been begging for a rematch for the longest time, ever since he took the San Shao rules fight with me a couple years ago at the last minute. He’s definitely looking for revenge.
MMA Weekly: So we can definitely expect a real war with him wanting revenge and you wanting to make a good showing in your debut?
Cung Le: Yeah definitely, I feel that he’s going to come swinging for the fences. He will be better shape this time, so he says, and he doesn’t think I’m going to be able to take him down, so we’ll see. I’m just looking forward to fighting in the cage in front of a huge crowd. I hear that over 14,000 tickets have been sold, from my gym alone we’re probably going to hit $80,000 worth of ticket sales for Scott Coker (K-1/ISKA Promoter).
MMA Weekly: How important was it for you to want to be a part of this historic MMA card in your hometown?
Cung Le: Very important, that’s a big reason I stepped up and took this fight on because it’s history in the making. It’s the first CSAC sanctioned MMA cage fight in California. Plus it’s going to be in San Jose and so I want to get out there and try it out and give the fans something to cheer. I’ve always been a big fan of MMA, I always enjoy watching it and going to the live events, so here’s the chance for me to get in there and have a little fun.
MMA Weekly: All right, let’s talk a little about what’s going on with your career away from the sport for a minute. I understand you’ve had a lot going on in your business life lately.
Cung Le: Business-wise the school is doing really good, the gym is doing well, but what’s taking off for me is my acting career. I was in Vietnam coaching the US National San Shao team, which under my coaching, 10 fighters earned six medals, 2 silver and 4 bronze, which was the most we’ve ever brought home, when I was told to call this guy about a movie.
Basically my mother had called me at like 2 in the morning telling me to call this guy, which I thought was crazy because I was coaching the finals the next day, but she pleaded with me so I called him. Two days later I was on a flight from Saigon to Hong Kong to Chicago to Toronto and 25 hours later I was being driven to the location of the set and was told I was the star of the movie.
MMA Weekly: What can you tell us about that project?
Cung Le: I’m not sure what the name is exactly because it’s in Russian, but translated it means “The Final Fight.” It’s going to open throughout the country in Russia and will probably come out here on DVD. I became the main actor, the hero of the movie, and my supporting cast is David Carradine, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who was the villain in Mortal Kombat, Eric Roberts, Gary Busy, Oleg Taktarov (UFC vet), and Bolo (Yeung) who’s worked with Bruce Lee. They’re already talking to me about the next project we might be working on.
MMA Weekly: With all the traveling did you have any chance to train?
Cung Le: It was hard to be in New York for one week because it was during the blizzard time, but I did get a chance to do a lot of running and springs. One of my fighters came out to do a fight scene and they basically let us spar for like three hours without any gear while they were filming. It was pretty full contact so I did get my sparring in and came home banged up [laughs], so I got my work in.
MMA Weekly: What about your fighting career, what do you see for yourself in that part of your life this year?
Cung Le: I’m going to take one fight at a time. There’s a lot of great fighters in the MMA world and I’m just starting on the bottom in this new arena with a big name already, but I’m going to take one fight at a time and see what direction the lord takes me to. I’m always going to be a San Shao fighter at heart but once I cross into the MMA arena I would hope the fans would consider me an MMA fighter.
MMA Weekly: So we’ll be seeing you do this for quite some time to come huh?
Cung Le: I don’t want to jinx myself, I enjoy it but I’m already 33 years old. So I don’t know how long I’ll be it for, I mean I look up to Randy Couture, but I don’t want to be fighting when I’m 40 years old [laughs].
MMA Weekly: Understandable. Thank you so much for your time Cung, we appreciate it. Is there anything you’d like to say as we close out the interview?
Cung Le: The first thing I’d like to say is I’d like to thank all fans for their support not only to me but the world of MMA and Martial Arts in general. I’d like to thank my sponsor Xyience for taking care of me and giving me a chance to train full time as a fighter and also giving me unlimited supplies of NOX and supplements which helps in my training and progression as an athlete and hopefully an MMA fighter.
I’d like to thank Sprawl shorts for the shorts and support they’ve given me and Cobb 28 as well. I want to also thank you and MMA Weekly for the interview and for your support of me over the last couple of years. I want to let the fans know that I’m going to go into that cage and I’m going to fire both guns and once the smoke clears I’m sure they’re going to be happy with the fight that I’m going to put on.
For more information on Cung Le and his USH! Fight Team and gear please visit his official website www.CungLe.com.