For centuries people have been obsessed with the art of the ninja. From movie icons like Bruce Lee to video games like Mortal Kombat, people have always loved the crazy but technical style of spinning kicks and odd angled punches. In the young sport of MMA we have not had the chance to see many of these “ninjas” so to say compete, but with Cung Le, we have had a glimpse of what someone with a strict martial arts background is really capable of. I sat down with Cung early this week to discuss everything from cookies to jealous keyboard warriors.
You’ve made it clear by now what you thought about your second fight with Scott and what adjustments you made from the first fight. What you have not addressed, however, is how were those cookies?
CUNG: The cookies were pretty good, but then I got sick and that was it. Now I’m back to eating healthy after two whole days of doing nothing but eating junk food.
You were at one point the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion before vacating the belt to focus more on your career as an actor. Now that you are back to fighting are you looking to go on another title run or are you more interested in being in match ups that seem interesting to you?
CUNG: Right now I haven’t really had time to sit down with Scott Coker and my trainers. To be honest, I haven’t really even slept since the fight because I have a new baby. Right now I’m focusing on being a father and helping out the wife as much as I can.
Would you ever consider dropping down to 170 and fighting a guy like Zaromskis who also has very aggressive kicks like yourself.
CUNG: Well I throw my kicks at different angles and I feel that my kicks do a lot of damage at 185. Why would I have to cut down in weight to fight somebody like that? Scott Smith is as tough as they come.
Looking at all of the different disciplines of martial arts that you have studied, what techniques have you had to modify to fight in MMA?
CUNG: I think a lot of it was my wrestling. When you take someone down you don’t just lay there. I think the biggest problem for me has been when I take someone down, transitioning into a superior position. I know I need to get out of guard instead of staying in guard.
Considering that Javier Mendez comes from the golden age of kickboxing, have you had the opportunity to train with other fighters from his era?
CUNG: No, just Javier Mendez. I’m very selective on who I train with. When I came to train with Javier I made sure that I really had an open mind. He definitely got me as far as I am now. I’m just happy that I made the right decision.
Over your entire life as a fighter you had never lost a fight. When you came up short in your first fight against Scott, how did you adapt mentally to that?
CUNG: I never lost as a professional, but as an amateur I had a couple losses that were bad calls. As for the loss, I’m a very positive person, so I just made sure to learn from the mistakes and move forward instead of drowning in my sorrows which I stayed away from. I was just positive and focused and I came back to do more damage. This time everything was sharp, everything was accurate, and everything was with bad intentions.
CUNG: You know, growing up I used to watch Bruce Lee a lot. I think my greatest influence right now would be Javier Mendez.
What does it mean to you to be able to train with him so consistently?
CUNG: The first three years that I was training with him I would go over to his gym, but things got rough after having the kids and then the divorce. I was never able to be in the right mindset. It ended up working out great. Me and Javier developed a very close friendship throughout the years. Not only is he a great coach, but he is a really great friend too.
I know that you and Dana White had been talking there for a while, but that was quite sometime back. Is there still a chance that we will be seeing you in the octagon sometime soon?
CUNG: Right now I’m just taking it one win at a time and one fight at a time. Even though UFC is at the top, I feel that Strikeforce is doing some good things. I have appeal to the Strikeforce fan base. Scott Coker has been promoting me since my kickboxing days. If I retire as a Strikeforce fighter, I will be glad just to be a part of the MMA game. I don’t need to be in UFC. I think I have a good platform. Showtime does big time promotion and Strikeforce is on its way to being on top of the industry.
CUNG: First of all, fans have the right to say whatever they want, but obviously they aren’t doing what I’m doing. They make money in other ways then I make money. It’s really easy to criticize, but until they are walking in my shoes they won’t know. I can’t fight forever. I have to have something to fall back on and that is what I make sure I do. I know I can’t fight forever, I wish I could, but on the other hand I have to make sure that once my fighting career is over I’m doing something that is good for my family’s payroll. The fans can say whatever they want, but I don’t care, I have thick skin. They wish that they could be in my shoes. They wish they could be in a lot of these other fighters shoes, but they’re not, they are just MMA keyboard warriors. They watch it and they think that they know everything about it. I’m not talking about all of the fans, just some specific ones that have negative things to say about me and the rest of the fighters. So fans, go blog on that.
Looking at your career as a fighter, you have a lot of titles and a lot of high ranks in multiple fighting disciplines. Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
CUNG: I would say when I beat Frank Shamrock.
How do you feel about his retirement?
CUNG: Well I had been expecting to do another fight with him. I wanted to get in there and do it one more time, but obviously his body is wearing out and when a fighter has to retire he has to retire. He can fall back on commentating and teaching now.
Let’s look at your acting career for a bit. How did you get involved in acting:
CUNG: Back in 1990 I was offered the shot to audition to play Lu-Kang in Mortal Kombat. Obviously I wasn’t prepared and didn’t know much about acting. After a couple of missed opportunities I decided to get into acting so that I would have a career after fighting. I started taking acting lessons and eventually I met the right people. Right now I’m really waiting to pull the trigger on a few projects.
I’m sure that every movie you make is just a special to you, but is there one movie that stands out as the one that you had the most fun filming?
CUNG: Since they are all different roles and different characters, I have fun on all of them. I think the one that I didn’t have fun on was Tekken because the lead actor accidentally nailed me in the mouth and I had to get 21 stitches. This was a month before the Frank Shamrock fight. I think that would be the one that I didn’t have much fun in. Also, the fight coordinator always just told me what to do, where as on the other projects they were open for how I would do things in a fight. I would tell them and then they would make the fight scene accordingly.
Obviously the injury didn’t affect your performance against Frank, but in the future are you going to try and be sure not to schedule a fight so close to shooting?
CUNG: Well when I scheduled the fight, shooting should have been well over, but they kept pushing it back. It is what it is and I would never purposely put myself in that situation, but it just happened.
It’s been great talking to you Cung. Is there anything you would like to close with?
CUNG: I would just like to thank all of my fans that support me. Thank you to those who have followed my whole career and thank you to the new fans that just found out who I am and enjoy following my career now. I want to thank Strikeforce, Scott Coker, and Showtime for their support. I want to thank my trainer Javier Mendez. Thank you all for all of your support.