While it’s been a year since he last fought an MMA bout, former Strikeforce champion and current UFC middleweight Cung Le’s participation in the sport is far from over.
With the recent debut of The Ultimate Fighter: China, Le has taken the position filled by UFC president Dana White on the American version of the reality series by acting as an overall mentor and guide for the Chinese production. As well, he still has desires to continue with his own fighting career.
Sandwiched between his MMA endeavors is also Le’s film career, which recently saw the release of the Chinese epic The Grandmaster on DVD, Blu-ray and digital media, of which he’s included in one of the movie’s most impressive fight scenes.
Shortly before heading out on a worldwide promotional tour for TUF: China, Le spoke with MMAWeekly.com to discuss the show, The Grandmaster and what he sees for his fighting career in the 2014.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Cung, tell us your initial thoughts on being part of TUF: China.
Cung Le: I thought I was going to be a coach, and at one point we were in talks of fighting Michael Bisping and I thought we’d be the coaches of the show, but this came up that they wanted me to be the mentor of the two coaches. When Dana (White) flew me out there and talked to me about what he wanted, I was all for it.
It was definitely an experience in that I got a chance to be in Dana White’s shoes. It was tougher than I thought it would be. I was over there, being a mentor coach and ended up doing a lot more than I expected. It was a tough experience because I had to wear so many hats.
MMAWeekly.com: Have you had a chance to see any of the finished episodes, and if so, what do you think?
Cung Le: I’ve seen the first three episodes and I think I’m working with a partner that’s never done reality television before. The UFC is the first reality type show from outside of China and it’s history in the making. These guys have never shot reality TV, so the storytelling – the editing – they lack a little bit of experience telling the story the way it should be told.
MMAWeekly.com: While MMA is growing exponentially in China, it’s still relatively new there. What do you think of the talent that they have there?
Cung Le: I think they have great talent over there, but what they don’t have is the coaches. There are stand-up coaches, jiu-jitsu coaches, but over there I feel there aren’t that many mixed martial arts coaches. MMA is a whole different animal, and there are only a handful of guys who know how to put it all together and most of them are over here.
MMAWeekly.com: Not only did TUF: China debut this month, but also your film The Grandmaster (about legendary Chinese martial artist and teacher Ip Man) came out on DVD, Blu-ray and digital media. What was it like working on the film?
Cung Le: Kar Wai Wong was probably the best director I ever worked with. It was a great experience. Being on the set of Grandmaster not only did I get a chance to work with one of the greatest directors in China, but one of the greatest action directors (and choreographers) in Yuen Woo Ping.
Tony (Leung, who portrayed Ip Man) is very humble and is it was great getting the chance to work with one of the best actors in China. I got a chance to see how he learns and performs and I definitely learned a lot from him on the set of The Grandmaster.
MMAWeekly.com: Recently you said on Twitter that you’re not retired from MMA and are still looking to fight. Tell us where you feel your career is right now and what you’re looking forward to in 2014.
Cung Le: I’ve been out for over a year now, but this time it wasn’t because I was doing movies, I had three surgeries in four months, so that kept me out.
Before I used to rush right back in (after surgery), like when I fought Frank Shamrock. I rushed right back in and fought him four months later and never really got a chance to heal up and the elbow was never the same because I didn’t have the proper rehab. This time I want to really let my injuries heal up so I can come back and do it right or don’t do it at all.
I just want to take it one fight at a time. Once my promotional tour for TUF and the Finals, I want to get back training and prepping for someone to see where I’m at and then make the decision of when to return to fight again and compete at the level I want to compete at.