For Le, a successful 2008 will be followed by packed 2009

Publish date:

From an infant escaping war-torn Vietnam shortly before the fall of its capital, Saigon, to San Shou star to MMA champion, Cung Le has seen his share of good times and bad.

Still, throughout it all, he has persisted to become the best at what he does, leading him to find success both in and out of the arena and become one of combat sports' most popular athletes.

Recently Le had a chance to look back over his year and discuss the injury that has kept him sidelined much of the year, while also pursuing a blossoming film career.

"A lot of people have been asking where I'm at, but a lot of people don't realize that my injury was as serious as it was," said Le. "I just went in there (against Frank Shamrock in March) and fought anyway. I didn't care what happened to the elbow because I knew I had a really good surgeon in Dr. Warren King, and if I had to get surgery again, so be it, but I was going to take the fight and give my all.

"Now after the fight, I've been out of the cage for a while. I'm just letting my elbow heal up. I want to make sure when I come back I'm healthy because I don't want to do these fights with my elbow not 100 percent. It's not going to get any better if I treat it poorly."

As Le explains, being sidelined by injury was the culmination of the wear and tear from both his own career and those of his teammates, as well as the fact that he might not have gotten another opportunity to face Shamrock for the Strikeforce middleweight title.

"I think over the years the wear and tear of my training and holding pads for six to ten guys straight one after another started catching up," stated Le. "Basically I didn't think Frank was going to take the fight because he was announcing he was going to fight Renzo Gracie, but I guess Renzo backed out and Frank decided he was going to fight me.

"I had already decided to get surgery -- which was supposed to be a minor surgery, but turned into a major one where they had to move the ulnar nerve -- but Javier Mendez, my trainer, said that it was a once in a lifetime chance, that Frank may not give me another chance. It's now or never, so I decided to do it."

According to Le, the fight against Shamrock in March remains the crowning moment of his total fighting career.

"I think that this year is the best year I ever had. Even though it's only one fight this year, it was the biggest fight and best fight I could dream of," he exclaimed.

"I've done a lot in my amateur career. I represented the United States three different times (at the World Martial Arts Championships), also I won many big San Shou fights; but definitely MMA has given me the most exposure and Frank Shamrock gave me one hell of a fight."

Outside the cage, he continues to flourish with the opening of a new gym of which many claim is one of best in sports; as well, he's focused on a movie career that will see him on the silver screen multiple times in the coming year.

"Actually, after a tough divorce, I closed two gyms down and opened another gym with an investing partner, and my fiancé got involved, and this is the best gym I've ever had," he admitted. "To top it off, my entertainment career is taking off.

"I just wrapped a movie (in Berlin, Germany) called Pandorum with producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer, who produced all the Resident Evil movies and Alien vs. Predator. They produced this movie starring Dennis Quaid, BenFoster, and they gave me a shot at this."

While Le's status in the martial arts world is enough to carry him into many film projects, it was his audition that impressed Pandorum director Christian Alvert enough to cast him in the movie, as well as provide him with possible future projects from the company producing the film, Crystal Sky Pictures.

That adds to a release schedule for next year that will see Le featured in no less than three movies, including Fighting starring Iron Man's Terrence Howard; and Tekken, the highly anticipated film adaptation of the popular fighting video game where he stars as fan favorite character Marshall Law.

If that wasn't enough, Le closes out 2008 by traveling to China to work with the legendary fight choreographer of such films as the Matrix trilogy and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, who will be directing his first film in over a decade.

"Woo-ping (Yuen) requested for me for the first movie he's directing both the film and action since Iron Monkey 2," said Le. "Most movies he just directs the action (as choreographer), but this movie he has complete control. He requested me for a cameo part; it's a pretty good and exciting part.

"Bill Kong, who's an Academy Award winner for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, put the bill together. He was the go-to guy between Woo-ping, my agent and my manager to put this bill together. I'm very excited to be working with Bill Kong and Woo-Ping."

With a successful gym, a fight team that continues to make waves in the fight game, and an exploding film career to go along with his success in MMA, it's been a big year for Cung Le, and as he says, it's not going to stop any time soon.

"What I'm very excited about is that if I'm able to do well in entertainment and film, I'll be able to draw a lot of people who don't really fallow MMA and bring them into the MMA world," concluded Le. "That's something I'm going to look for in 2009 with all the opportunities I've got. If my promoter, Scott Coker, wants me to fight, we'll sit down and talk about it, but right now I'm just enjoying myself and definitely train hard and see what happens.