Sunday, August 31, 2014
Early life and education
Le was born in Saigon, South Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). In 1975, three days before the Fall of Saigon, Cung Le and his mother Anne left Vietnam by helicopter under heavy gunfire. He ended up in San Jose, California, where early discrimination and bullying inspired him to learn martial arts. His mother enrolled him in Taekwondo classes at the age of 10. Le has disciplines in a variety of martial arts like kuntao, sambo, and was undefeated as a professional kickboxer with a record of 17 wins and 0 losses. He is a three time world champion in kickboxing and also coaches his own team, which is now 11–0 in team competition.
Le began wrestling competitively at age 14 after being inspired by Sylvester Stallone´s Rocky and earned All-American Honors in his junior year of high school. He went on to wrestle for West Valley College in Saratoga, California and won the California Junior College State Championship in the 158 lb weight class in 1990.
Le is undefeated in his Sanda career (17–0). He has won three US Open International Martial Arts Championships (1994, 1995, 1996). In 1998 he won the Shidokan tournament championship. He has also won 4 US National Championships (Orlando, Florida 1994, Dallas, TX, 1995, Baltimore, MD, 1997). He earned three bronze medals in his amateur Sanshou world competition compiling an overall amateur record of 18–3. He has been a three-time captain of the United States teams that competed and was the U.S. team captain at the World Wushu Championships in 1997 (Italy) and 1999 (Hong Kong). On December 15, 2001 he defeated Shonie Carter by unanimous decision in San Jose, California to win the IKF International Kickboxing Federation Pro Light Heavyweight Sanda World Title. In May 2003, Le entered into K-1 competitions where he garnered a 3–0 career record, including 1 knockout.
Mixed martial arts career
Le made his mixed martial arts debut at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie on March 10, 2006, at the HP Pavilion at San Jose, knocking out kickboxing rival Mike Altman at 3:51 of the first round. Le first met Altman in San Jose, 1999 in a kickboxing bout where he defeated Altman via a body shot in the third round. Three months later he faced KOTC veteran Brian Warren, knocking him out at 4:19 of the first round. Le had also faced Warren in a K-1 Sanshou bout where he won by decision. At Strikeforce: Triple Threat on December 8, 2006, Le defeated UFC veteran Jason Von Flue in 0:43 of round 1 when the fight had to be stopped due to a cut from a kick strike. Le went on to fight Tony Fryklund who had just suffered a spectacular loss to Anderson Silva. Like Silva, Le beat Fryklund via TKO due to strikes late in the third round. Soon after Le fought Sammy Morgan at Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives where he won the bout via TKO.
On March 29, 2008, Le defeated a long time MMA veteran Frank Shamrock in a fight co-promoted by Strikeforce and EliteXC at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Le won via TKO when Frank Shamrocks' right arm was broken after a series of kicks (ulna broken), making him the new Strikeforce Middleweight champion.On September 17, 2009, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that Le had relinquished his belt after securing a major motion picture deal.
After 21 months since his last fight Le returned to Strikeforce to face Scott Smith at Strikeforce: Evolution on December 19, 2009. Le suffered his first MMA defeat, losing via TKO at 3:25 of round 3. After the match, Le expressed interest in an immediate rematch with Smith. His wish was granted on June 26, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum in which Le defeated Smith via TKO into the second round to avenge his only MMA loss at the time.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Le has said that it’s basically the UFC or bust for him at this point in his fighting career. “I know for a fact that if I do fight again, it’s going to be in the UFC. I’ve never fought in the UFC, but I would love to fight in the UFC. But right now because of my contract with Showtime and Stikeforce, hopefully things can work out because there is a show in San Jose that Cain Velasquez is the main event. I would love to fight in San Jose for the UFC ....” said Le.
Le was briefly linked to a matchup with Vitor Belfort on November 19, 2011 at UFC 139. However, Belfort was removed from the bout and replaced by former Pride FC Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva. Le managed to confuse Silva with his unorthodox kicks, and landed a spinning backfist that dropped Silva. During the second round, Silva managed to shake Le with huge punches and knees that completely broke Le's nose. Le was stunned, bloody and fell to the ground, and the fight was stopped by the referee. Afterwards in the press conference, Dana White commented that it was a good stoppage and that Cung was taken to the hospital.
Le was scheduled to face former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin on July 7, 2012 at UFC 148. However, due to an injury to headliner Vitor Belfort, Franklin instead faced Wanderlei Silva in a 190 lb catchweight rematch on June 23, 2012 at UFC 147. Le instead faced former title contender Patrick Côté. He earned his first UFC win via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Le faced Rich Franklin in the main event on November 10, 2012 at UFC: Macao. Cung Le won the fight via KO with a powerful hook punch at Franklin's head at 2:17 in the first round.
The Ultimate Fighter: China
In November 2013, it was announced that Le would serve as the chief coach and mentor on The Ultimate Fighter: China, the China-based version of The Ultimate Fighter which begins airing in December 2013.
Le co-starred in the live-action Tekken film, based upon the popular martial arts fighting game, as Marshall Law, released November 5, 2009 for the American film market. Le had supporting roles in the science fiction film Pandorum with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, and Fighting, released in 2009 alongside Channing Tatum. He also starred in a Hong Kong martial art film Bodyguards and Assassins, which was released on December 18, 2009; his film was the first time he worked with and had a fight scene with Hong Kong martial arts superstar Donnie Yen.
He also appeared in a Vietnamese music show Paris By Night 99 - Tôi Là Người Việt Nam where he was interviewed by Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen; this show also marked one of the few times Le has spoken Vietnamese on camera.
Le had a lead role in the 2012 action film Dragon Eyes, costarring Jean-Claude Van Damme and produced by Joel Silver. The movie is based on the Akira Kurosawa classic Yojimbo and is "MMA-themed". Also in 2012, Le played Bronze Lion in The Man with the Iron Fists, a film directed by RZA.
He recently starred in the explosive action movie Certain Justice, a film directed by Giorgio Serafini and co directed and written by James Coyne. In this fast paced, action revenge tale, he stars alongside Dolph Lundgren, Vinnie Jones, Gianni Capaldi and Briana Evigan.
Le has two sons with his ex-wife. He and his second wife Suzanne were married in August 2009. The couple had their first child together, a boy named Robert Eric Le, born in 2010.
Championships and accomplishments
California Community College Athletic Association
CCCAA State Championship (1990)
CCCAA All-State (1990)
West Valley College Wrestling Team Captain (1990, 1991)
Amateur Athletic Union
AAU Espoir Freestyle National Championship (1989)
AAU Espoir Greco-Roman National Championship (1989)
International Kickboxing Federation
IKF Sanshou World Light Heavyweight Championship (One time)
International Sport Karate Association
ISKA Sanshou North American Light Heavyweight Sanshou Championship (One time)
ISKA Sanshou U.S. Light Heavyweight Championship (One time)
ISKA Sanshou U.S. Light Cruiserweight Championship (One time)
Ho Tet Tae Kwon Do
Ho Tet Tae Kwon Do Tournament 1994 Grand Champion
USA International World Championships
1996 Continuous Sparring Tae Kwon Do World Champion
World Wide Draka Federation
1998 Draka Tournament Winner
Shidokan Cup Bare-Knuckle Full Contact Karate
1998 Shidokan Cup U.S. Tournament Winner
International Wushu Federation
1999 WUF World Wushu Championships Sanshou Bronze Medalist
1997 WUF World Wushu Championships Sanshou Bronze Medalist
1995 WUF World Wushu Championships Sanshou Bronze Medalist
Black Belt Magazine
2007 Kung Fu Artist of the Year
Mixed martial arts
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship (One time)
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Fight of the Night (One time)
Knockout of the Night (One time)
2012 Knockout of the Year vs. Rich Franklin on November 10
2008 Fight of the Year Bazzie Award vs. Frank Shamrock on March 29
Amateur Athletic Union
AAU Espoir Sambo National Championship (1989)