At UFC 148, Cung Le, 40, Looks to Prove He’s More Than A Hollywood Martial Arts Action Star And Can Still Fight
By Joshua Molina
At 40 years old, Cung Le will be the oldest man to compete in the cage at UFC 148 tomorrow/Saturday.
He’s not a UFC legend. He’s not on a retirement tour. And he’s not fighting in grudge match one more time for the fans.
The Vietnamese mixed martial artist, instead, is looking for his first UFC victory – of his career.
Le is in perhaps the sport’s most unique situation. Old for a fighter, yet still trying to prove that he’s good enough to fight in the UFC.
A former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Le is known for his powerful, wicked, fast and devastating kicks, perfected from his years of training in San Shou kickboxing. But he started MMA late, at the age of 34, and has only fought nine times. He’s compiled a record of 7-2, both of his losses by devastating knockout.
So when enters the cage against another knockout artist, Patrick Cote, he will have something to prove. And if he loses badly again, at 40, it definitely will make people wonder out loud if Le’s best fighting days are over.
“I like being the underdog,” Le said in a press conference Thursday. “I am happy about that. When the smoke clears, may the better man stand.”
Le is somewhat of a legend in San Jose, California, where he has called home since he was a child. His style is unlike any other MMA athlete. He kicks hard and fast and all of his victories have come by knockout.
Because of his thrilling style of fighting, Le is one of the few Strikeforce fighters who the UFC moved over after it purchased the company in 2011.
But at 40, Le has shown signs of decline. He tends to tire early from all those heavy kicks he throws. And with three broken noses, and two knockout losses, questions linger about whether he can take a punch when he’s tired.
Le said he’s ready to prove everybody wrong. In the past, he said, that he over-trained, and went into fights tired or injured.
“My trainers had to kick me out of the gym,” he said. “Not this time. This time around I took better care of my body and made sure that I didn’t over-train.”
One of the reasons that Le has only fought nine times in six years is because he has tried to balance a burgeoning movie career.
He also seems to know that his fighting days are nearing an end.
“I love competing,” Le said. “You can’t fight forever, but I am going to do it as long as I can.”
As for Cote, Le’s strategy is to end the fight early. The longer it goes, the younger Cote, 32, will get the advantage. In his last fight, Le had Wanderlei Silva hurt in the first round, but he got tired, and Silva knocked him out in the second.
“It is going to be a very tough fight, a very competitive fight,” Le said. “This is an exciting matchup for all the fans. I am planning to fight very hard so I am looking forward to it.”
Joshua Molina is a college journalism instructor in California, journalist and mixed martial arts writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.