We had the pleasure of speaking with Strikeforce’s middleweight superstar Cung Le (5-0). He was open and honest with us as he spoke about a possible upcoming bout with Frank Shamrock, as well as how he would attack some of the sport’s top middleweights.
Le also updates us on what he’s been up to and when we can expect to see him in a Strikeforce cage again.
Tim: What have you been up to since your last fight with Sammy Morgan?
Cung Le: Well right now, I’m picking up my son from school just walking abck to the car. Sorry about all that noise, but basically getting ready for the holidays, keeping my cardio going and working out where I’m just lifting weights, doing cardio and keeping up with some technique and that’s about it.
T: Okay cool, speaking of the holidays, is there anything that Cung Le would want for Christmas?
CL: I just want my kids to be happy and um, that’s about it.
T: That’s a good wish. Coming from a kickboxing background everyone’s been able to see what you can do standing up, at this point in time where would you rate your ground game?
CL: Probably a C minus.
T: A C minus?
T: How much more do you think you have until you get to the B or A level?
CL: Well you know what? It’s just putting in the work everyday and see how much I improve. Sometimes you just gotta put in your time and then figure it out. I don’t know how long, but I’ll do whatever it takes to get better.
Sam: You seem to have a really exciting style, you know pulling off a lot of spinning back kicks, definitely coming from your San Shou background how do you think you can pull off some of these moves where other MMA fighters you know really can’t pull the move off or make it as exciting as you do in your fights.
CL: Um, I think the reason I’m able to pull off these moves is because I’ve always done it at a high level you know. Against some top San Shou fighters that see it coming and they see it coming and they are familiar with the moves because they do it themselves. Going up against MMA fighters, it seems to be like they’ve never seen different angles and these kinds of kicks because it’s shoot in, take a guy down, choke him, ground and pound or stand up. You see a lot more of punches then kicks [in MMA], in San Shou you see a lot more variety, I’ve basically been doing this for the longest time so I’m able to get away with it more then other fighters because of my background.
T: The fighters that we have spoken in the past said that they don’t really analyze their upcoming opponents too much, what’s your preparation like heading into a fight? Is there a certain way you train or does it stay the same?
CL: Oh definitely. The more tape I have on my opponent the better. It gives me a chance to see where the openings are, what their strengths are and what to watch out for. But basically when I step into the cage now, I just blank out my mind and take what’s open.
T: A lot of people talk about the whole Frank Shamrock issue, and we’re going to get into that obviously. Do you have any animosity towards Frank Shamrock? Or is it something where you want to see how well you do against him?
CL: You know what, Frank and I we go back probably to 1998. We trained here and there and I helped him prepare for a couple of his fights, big fights like against Tito and against the other Japanese guys he’s fought against. When he said, “fighting Phil Baroni’s like fighting Cung Le on his day off” obviously it kind of got my blood flowing a little bit, but you know I don’t take nothing personal. I just want to test my skills and kind of see where I’m at against someone at that level who’s been doing this for the longest time and with all the experience that he’s got and with all the big fights that he’s gotten underneath his belt, I definitely want to challenge myself. At the same time it’s going for another title, so me being the underdog it’s kind of exciting because every time I fight in San Shou I’m favored to win. Here I get a chance to be the underdog it’s kind of exciting.
T: Yeah, that Phil Baroni comment, was that the one on Cage Side Live?
CL: Yes it was.
T: Would training with Frank in the past factor in a fight with him? Do you think your sparring sessions with him give either way an advantage?
CL: When I trained with Frank it was more like the punch, kicks, knees and throws but there was no submissions so you know, I think part of it will definitely help me, but then Frank’s you know, he’s a wizard on the ground and I’m aware of that. I’m just excited, I’m excited to test myself, I can’t wait.
T: Now speaking of being excited, is there a set date or a general time frame in when that fight may happen?
CL: I don’t have a set date or a time yet. I know it should happen next year, I don’t know if it’s going to be the first quarter or the fourth quarter [of 2008], I just don’t know. Whenever it is I’ll be prepared because for me I stay in shape year round and my only weaknesses are sometimes chocolate chip cookies and pizza [laughs]. I know when to cut that out so, I got a good fast metabolism and I’m not too worried. I don’t get too heavy, I don’t ever weigh in the 200’s [pounds] ever. I keep fit and I keep trim year round you know?
T: We watch a lot of MMA and it’s funny because we actually heard about you through my father. My dad actually never watches MMA, but the reason he heard about you was because you’re a Vietnamese fighter and we’re Vietnamese also. I was going to ask you, what’s it like fighting in San Jose, which is actually the largest populated Vietnamese community in the United States?
CL: Well you know what? Not just the Vietnamese crowd, but everyone they come out and they make it so loud sometimes I can’t even hear what the announcer is saying or what the referee is telling me. It’s awesome, it’s a awesome atmosphere and I definitely feed off the energy.
T: Does it ever change your mindset heading into a fight if you hear a crowd a little bit amped up and excited?
CL: Oh yeah. It’s just gets you a little more pumped and sometimes that can work against you if you don’t know how to channel it right. If you don’t channel it right then you can kind of get over-excited and try to go for a knockout to impress everyone or to give everyone a great show. I just go in there now and being in so many fights I just go in there and do what I do best and just try to keep the tempo [good] for me. Not try to fight any different, change anything. I just try to perform like how I do in practice and that’s how I kind of see if my performance is how I trained in practice. Pretty much I’m always intense, I’m always focused and how I train is how I perform.
S: We know that you were recently for the “Owned” MMA movie with our friend James Hergott, we actually got to spend some time with him at the North American MMA Expo, how’d that come about?
CL: Well he cast me for his other project called “Never Submit”, but he had some issues with I guess his production partners and that never happened. We stayed in touch and he told me that he had another project. I was very excited about it, we haven’t decided what character I was going to play yet. He says that I’m cast for the part, but he hasn’t made an official offer to my agent or my management yet in entertainment world so we’ll see where that goes and I definitely know I’m making some noise in the entertainment world because I just got done filming with Channing Tatum and Terrance Howard. I’m definitely coming up.
S: We know what you’ve already been in a couple of movies, is that what you plan to do when you’re done with fighting? Is that the natural progression?
CL: Well right now I’m going to do both, kind of be like the Bo Jackson of this world MMA and doing the movies.
S: So Cung Le knows acting then huh?
CL: Well what I know is that if you don’t practice your acting skills then you just end up trying be like stunt [acting] or I don’t want to be stuck in like B-movie hell.
T: How instrumental would you say your MMA trainer Javier Mendez has been on your MMA career?
CL: You know, Javier Mendez has been actually a huge factor in my MMA career. The fact that he talked me into it, the fact that he trained me and he has an eye and all that knowledge it definitely showed in all my last fights. I’m 5-0 in MMA with five TKO’s.
S: How much longer do you see yourself fighting professionally?
CL: Right now I just take one day, one fight at a time. I just kind of go day by day because tomorrow’s not promised, so it’s just one day at a time.
T: Aright Cung, there’s some tough 185 pounders out there. We’re going to go through a list, but can you kind of tell us their skills in terms of how you would attack them if you actually fought them.
T: Let’s start with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
CL: Keep it standing and test out my stand-up skills against him.
T: What would you do against former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin?
CL: Keep it standing against Rich Franklin and give him a lot of different angles and definitely be very aggressive against him.
T: How about Pride Middleweight Champion Dan Henderson?
CL: Dan Henderson, I would be in and out and stay away from his takedowns. Go for the points and just stay busy.
T: Finally the current WEC Middleweight Champion Paulo Filho.
CL: I’d say… Keep it standing [laughs] just stay away from the ground against him. He’s definitely, out of all those guys you’ve mentioned, he’s the most dangerous on the ground.
T: Alright Cung, we definitely want to thank you for spending some time with us. We know that your busy going to pickup your kids and stuff like that. Are there any final things that you want to say to your fans or your sponsors?
CL I want to thank you guys for having me on the show, and I’d like to thank my sponsors: Throwdown, MyGRide.com, Knoxx Gear, Sprawl Shorts, Cung Le Martial Arts in South Bay and Javier Mendez at AKA [American Kickboxing Academy]. I’m sure I’m suppose to be fighting on March 29th, I’m not sure who it’ll be and once they announce it we can get back on air and blow it up.