"I want to compete and be the main event. I love super fights, and Michael Bisping is a super fight to me. I plan to bring the lightning, followed by the thunder." --Cung Le
"They might have the names, but you won't find anybody in UFC who can kick like Cung Le."
That's what a fellow mixed martial arts (MMA) reporter told me the first time I ever got to see the Sanshou specialist in action. It was a few days before his Strikeforce middleweight title fight against Frank Shamrock back in 2007, and Le was pounding the pads for a handful of reporters.
His last kick was one for the flashbulbs, and it landed hard enough to split the seam on the heavy bag.
That didn't seem to faze Shammy leading up to the event, who was far too proud to take their fight to the ground and hunt for what was considered an easy submission victory. No, "The Legend" wanted to beat the challenger at his own game, and as a result, left San Jose's "Shark Tank" with a broken arm.
That's the kind of power you can expect from the 42-year-old striker, who has yet to notch a submission victory in 11 professional fights. And I don't believe that streak will end when he throws hands opposite Michael Bisping in the UFC Fight Night 48 main event, which takes place on Fight Pass this Saturday (Aug. 23, 2014) in Macau, China.
Eight of his nine wins have come by way of knockout/technical knockout. And you can ask Rich Franklin the kind of torque Le can get behind his punches, too, if "Ace" can remember what actually happened the night he went stiff inside the Cotai Arena.
Which makes you wonder why the Californian hasn't competed in nearly two years.
At the tender age of 42, Le (9-2) has only fought, on average, once a year since 2007, denying himself the kind of momentum it takes to get into the division title hunt. But while the promotion celebrates the crossover appeal of stars like Ronda Rousey, Le was lighting up the silver screen long before anyone heard of "Rowdy."
His biggest role to date was alongside Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster in 2009's Pandorum, which inevitably draws comparisons to the fictional Johnny Cage. Sure, he looks good onscreen, but he'll still come back to the fight game every 12 months to remind you this shit is for real.
To that end, Le has always been more of a martial artist than a cage fighter, promoting his own amateur events in the Bay area for over 18 years. That's one of the many reasons why he was tapped to play the role of UFC President Dana White when the promotion held its first "Ultimate Fighter" series in China.
Is it too late to make a run at the title?
Probably, as the idea of trying to stay competitive in a division stacked with masters of the ground game makes it hard to envision a scenario where intelligent fighters don't opt for the floor instead of rolling the dice on the feet. That includes Bisping, who showed us in the Brian Stann fight that winning is still more important than looking good (making this claim hard to believe).
And by his own admission, "The Count" would consider a new line of work if he went to sleep overseas.
That means a Bisping loss is more important than a Le win, at least in terms of how the future of the division unfolds. The brash Brit has always been a tough out, but a crack at the 185-pound crown continues to elude him. I'm not sure Le even cares about the title at this stage of the game, because he's not even ranked in the top 15 and would have to put together an incredible run to even get into the discussion.
Speaking of incredible runs, consider this:
2008 Strikeforce Middleweight MMA Champion
2005 Strikeforce Light Heavyweight San Shou Champion
2004 ISKA Light Heavyweight K-1 Super Fight Champion
2001 IKF Light Heavyweight World Champion
2000 ISKA North American Light Heavyweight Champion
2000 ISKA Light Heavyweight K-1 Super fight Champion
1999 Art of War Light Heavyweight Champion (China vs. USA)
1999 ISKA Light Heavyweight Sanshou Champion
1998 ISKA Light Cruzer weight Champion
1998 Shidokan Team USA Champion
Three time Bronze Medalist in Wushu World Championships
California Junior State Champion (158 lbs)
AAU Freestyle and Greco Roman National Champion (163 lbs)
California State High School Wrestling All-American.
Black belt in Taekwondo
Blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Not too shabby.
"One fight at a time," Le recently told reporters, which is how it has been since the beginning. And I wouldn't expect a win -- or a loss -- to change that approach to the fight game. That's probably for the better, as there may not be any more room in his trophy case for another belt.