Cung Le “Honored” to be Fighting Vitor Belfort, Understands Speculation Regarding Future of Strikeforce
By Kelsey Mowatt
Throughout the summer, Cung Le wasn’t shy about expressing the fact that he hoped to transfer from Strikeforce to the Ultimate Fighting Championship and compete at the promotion’s upcoming November 19th event in his hometown of San Jose. Despite the fact that Zuffa now owns both promotions, few could have anticipated that not only would Le get his wish, but that the 39 year-old-middleweight would make his UFC debut against one of the sport’s biggest names in Vitor Belfort.
“Honestly I didn’t think it was going to happen,” said Le, who expressed to FCF in August that he was hoping to jump to the UFC. “But when it did it happened really quick. I’m just really grateful and honored. I’m just enjoying every minute of this.”
“I got a call from Lorenzo’s (Fertitta) assistant and they said for me to come in,” Le added while discussing the events that surrounded his recent UFC signing, which reportedly was a six fight deal. “I thought we were going to talk about my Strikeforce contract but instead I got the new contract and they offered me the fight with Vitor. So here we go.”
In signing Le, the UFC has not only acquired yet another of Strikeforce’s biggest names, it has added a fighter whose MMA career was closely linked to the promotion and its own success. In addition to being a considerable draw for Strikeforce in the San Jose market, the highlight reel striker participated in some of the promotion’s more memorable bouts, helping establish Strikeforce in the MMA world. Naturally, Le’s departure for the UFC will only heighten speculation as to whether Zuffa intends to keep Strikeforce afloat.
“I can totally see that,” said Le, when asked if he understands why his departure could further many people’s doubts regarding the future of Strikeforce. “Mainly I was with Strikeforce because of Scott Coker. I have his blessing and he actually was very helpful in this whole process. I’m just grateful for all that I have.”
In Belfort, Le will take on another of the middleweight divisions renowned strikers. Belfort’s recent, first round knockout of Yoshihiro Akiyama in August, was the 34 year-old-fighter’s fourth TKO or KO win in five fights.
“He’s a very tough opponent,” said Le. “I don’t really know until we step in the cage. On paper he has more experience, so he’s going to be the favorite, but it matches up well as an exciting fight. Striker versus striker. One striker uses the hands the other striker uses the legs and there’s going to be fireworks.”
“I’ll be prepared for everything,” Le added, while discussing the possibility of whether the BJJ black belt might try to take the fight to the mat. “He should be aware of the fact that I might take him down too. I have a heavy wrestling background. I’m a high school All American and in junior college I was a State Champion, so I think I’m more decorated in the wrestling and he’s more decorated in the jiu-jitsu.”
While Belfort was promptly knocked out by UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva in February, a win over the former contender would likely catapult Le right into the upper echelon of the promotion’s 185 pound division. It would be an interesting development for Le, who due to his extensive and accomplished acting career, has fought only once per year since 2008.
“That thought has crossed my mind,” said Le, when asked if he’s considered the fact that the UFC might call on him to compete more often, provided he defeats Belfort on November 19th. “But the UFC has a pretty deep middleweight division at the top; there’s a lot of guys that are really good. So, right now that thought has to be blocked out of my mind because all I should be focusing on is executing my game plan.”