by Mick Hammond, MMAWeekly.com
It’s been a trying year for San Shou superstar Cung Le. After spending much of last year out with an injury, he returned to action earlier this year triumphantly, only to be again forced to sit on the sidelines waiting for sanctioning bodies and promoters to clear the way for him to return to action.
Instead of just sitting and doing nothing, Le has shifted his focus towards teaching and giving back to the sport that’s made him a star by coaching the US National San Shou Team at the upcoming World Championships in Vietnam. Recently MMA Weekly caught up with Le to discuss the remainder of the year and why he’s coaching instead of fighting to finish out 2005.
“I was training to fight in October but that got put on hold,” said Cung. “I’ve just focused on maintaining my training, getting things going at my school, and getting ready to coach the National Team at the World Championships in Vietnam December 9th – 15th.”
Le continued, “I’m pretty happy to be the head coach. There are 10 members on the team, 6 male and 4 female fighters. Out of those 10, 5 are from my school. It’s a big event, it’s almost like the Olympics with an opening ceremony, 73 countries are represented and each team walks out with their flag in a big stadium. It’s pretty prestigious, it gets a lot of international coverage.”
The US National Team has a good chance at the Championships, especially one fighter in particular, one of Le’s own female students is not only one of the best in the competition, but a defending World Champion as well.
“The US team never won a gold medal until Elaina Maxwell won one at the last Championships. She was the sleeper on the team and ended up winning gold. She beat a very good girl from India and a girl from Poland who was undefeated for nine years. I think this is probably the strongest US team ever, we have a lot of returning talent from the last Championships,” commented Cung.
Le himself is familiar with the event, being a participant himself in past years. “The first year I did it I was beat by the 2-time World Champion and then the following year I was disqualified in the semi-finals. I had beaten the toughest guy in the tourney in the quarterfinals then I fought a guy from Iran and I went for an inside leg kick and he said I hit him in the groin. He faked it and it’s pretty political so I was disqualified and took Bronze.”
When it comes to coaching compared to fighting, Cung acknowledges that the big difference is that while he’s calm when fighting, coaching can be quite the opposite. “I’m used to coaching, running a school and the Ush! Fight Team, so I’m always coaching, but it’s definitely nerve-wrecking. I get more nervous right before one of my fighters fight than before I did before mine. When I warm them up and give them a speech before each fight you can see it in their eyes; they don’t know what to expect sometimes and makes me nervous. I can’t fight for them, so I just hope that I helped them prepare for anything that happens.”
As for when Cung will return to action, he’s hoping things can get worked out on the business side so he can get back into the ring. Until then he will focus on the task at hand and look towards the future with hopeful eyes.
“Well I’m just waiting on (K-1 US Promoter) Scott Coker,” explained Le. “There’s so much movement going on with the UFC and Pride, so I don’t know when I may fight for either of them. I’m working with Scott and seeing where it goes. I’ve got a fight agreement with him and right now he’s just trying to make things happen in California. Because of the injury I missed the first US K-1 and then I was saved so I could fight on a San Jose show and the last K-1 wasn’t on PPV, so if K-1 comes back to Vegas next year hopefully I’ll fight on PPV again.”
Cung continued, “All I can say is that I’m a lot more confident now. My last fight was June 4th and I was unsure how my knee or elbow would do. My conditioning wasn’t good but I went out there and got the win, so I’ll be better next time. For now I’m focused on the US National Team and training them and making sure they can do what they do and after that I’ll hit the pavement and see where it goes”
“I just want to say thank you to all the fans that have supported me and have shown patience. I’m hoping they support our team when we go overseas because the crowds over there don’t like us, it’s a disadvantage, but we have one of the best teams and we’re going to do well. The big thing for us is, this is a team, we’re together in this and watch out world because here we come,” said an enthusiastic Le.