UFC's Asian ambassador talks Michael Bisping, trash talk, his return to Macau, elbow surgeries, a new appearance, and future movie projects.
It has been a long break in action for Cung Le.
The last time he was inside the Octagon, he won "Knockout of the Night" by crushing Rich Franklin with an overhand right in Macau, the city he now returns to for UFC Fight Night 48 on Saturday night (Aug. 23, 2014) at Venetian's Cotai Arena (full results here).
Since that date in November of 2012, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion has undergone three different elbow surgeries.
UFC continues its global expansion this weekend with its second trip to the Asian city since The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "China" Finale back in March. Le has been the Asian ambassador for UFC and although the first time was a lot to "endure" with the crazy media schedule -- which has since increased this time around -- he says it's "funner now" on the second trip.
"Asia is a great place for me to fight and I'm very excited to get back in the Octagon," Le told MMAmania.com on Wednesday. "I miss fighting back home in Vegas and in San Jose, too. The UFC needs me out here and I feel like I'm vested in the Asian community out here. I'm honored to be the main event and to headline in the fight against someone like Michael Bisping."
That "someone" was once considered one of the best in the UFC's middleweight division, until he was crushed by a high kick in a loss to Vitor Belfort. "The Count" would bounce back into the win column with a victory over Alan Belcher at UFC 159, only to drop his next fight to Tim Kennedy in a very lackluster performance.
The Brit is now ranked No. 8 among the top middleweights.
Regardless of his ranking, Bisping has always been an elite trash talker, and although things were cordial when the media tour for this upcoming fight began, it has taken a turn recently when Bisping took umbrage to some of Le's comments at a fan Q and A, saying he would be bringing "tornado kicks and thunder and lighting," into the match up.
"The Count" called Le a "phony" and said their fight won't be resembling "Tekken 4."
"Michael is going to be Michael," Le said about his opponent's comments. "It seems like he is upset with his life or something so he has to really try to take it out on someone else. I don't care what he says. He is just an angry person. Whatever. I was just answering questions at the Q & A and I was having fun with the crowd there and that was my job. If he was offended by that, I can care less."
Le, 42, has eight career knockouts in his 11 MMA bouts and he said he will be bringing "his whole bag of tricks" with him this weekend in Macau.
"I'm sure he thinks he is going to stand with me," said Le, who is now 2-1 in the UFC. "During that interview, you just mentioned now, he exposed his game plan. He's going to keep it nice and close and he is going to keep it on the Octagon, or he will try and take it to the ground. That's what me and my trainer Scott (Sheeley) and my team have been working on: working on the fence and working off my back. He's got to get me there first and if he gets me there, he has to hold me there. I didn't get to high school and college All-American because I was giving up take downs. I'm excited for this fight and he has to get close to me. When he gets close to me and if he thinks there is no power in close, he is going to have a very rude awakening."
Many will talk about Le's striking arsenal, but his background in Sanshou makes him formidable in the trips and takedown department, as well.
"I'm pretty good with throwing, catching, and I've prepared well for this fight. If he wants to try takedowns, I'm open for that, too. I'm totally comfortable wherever it goes, but I definitely want to keep it on my feet because I'm here to entertain the crowd. I'm sure he is there to try to get a W. When you are entertaining the crowd, that means your game plan is working and basically he is taking punishment because my game plan is working."
Some recent pictures have come out showing Le more shredded than he's ever been and clearly sporting a drastically different appearance than in his last fight. The action-movie star said it's nothing more than old fashioned hard work and a strict diet and revealed he was hindered from training to his full potential due to his elbow issues that have now been corrected with surgery.
"I have a new personal trainer and he's really good with diets and I've been on it for a year," Le explained. "I thought the weight was going to shed off faster, but it took longer to get all the fat off. My last three fights in the UFC I wasn't as lean as I was normally and I wasn't lifting properly, because I was working around my injuries and now that I'm healthy, I was able to lift properly and push it a little bit harder than I normally do and I'm in the best shape of my life."
"If you take a look at my Instagram account I have a lot of posts about my workout and clips of me working out and why the workouts are working for me. I'm stronger than before. It would take forever for me to explain to you everything that I do, but you can definitely see it on my Instagram."
As far as his return in front of the camera, Le has a few projects in the making. One is an action adventure called "Target" and the other is an action comedy with comedian Russel Peters called "Detail." Le will be working with director J.J. Perry, who has been a stunt coordinator and fight choreographer on several films including: Django, Warrior, Expendables and Homefront. The co-star of Dragon Eyes said as soon as his fight with Bisping is over he will "get into pre-production and start casting."
"I've just had such a great experience, even though it's hard work. I learned so much from movies. I have come away with a lot, whether it's experience or more knowledge or how the movie came together with the pressure that we had. I feel like it is really worth it."
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