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Enough is Enough! Step Up or Step Down Cung Le

Cung LeSo when did it start being okay for a champion to neglect defending his title for well over a year to focus on a career in show-business?

This is a subject that has been just living underneath my skin for quite some time now and I’m through sitting on my hands. I’m going way old school in this piece and firing directly from my hip in this editorial, and these verbal bullets are being aimed in the direction of Strikeforce Middleweight “Champion” Cung Le.

First things first. I used to be a huge Cung Le fan. Not Cung Le the “movie star”, but Cung Le the bad ass Sanshou master turned human highlight reel mixed martial artist.

I was a fan of the Cung Le that I remember watching absolutely destroy people during K-1 events held in Las Vegas back in 2003 during these crazy San Shou fights. Cung was just hip tossing dudes to the ground, kicking them in the mouth, clipping guys with spinning backfists; There was no one that even came close to the dazzling Vietnamese-American at this unfamiliar fighting style that combined strikes with throws.

At the time I figured it was something Cung had made up so that he could just dominate his own sport. I learned after the fact that that was far from the case and quickly developed a deep respect for Cung and his accomplishments in the art.

That was long before he made his professional MMA debut for Strikeforce back in March of 2006. Of course I took immediate notice to Cung when he jumped into mixed martial arts, and we all know he didn’t disappoint. Six fights, six wins, six knockouts in exactly two years. He was coming along nicely. There was a lot to be excited about in regards to Le’s future in MMA at the time.

Then something happened with the previously dedicated gladiator; He won the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship in a hard fought battle against an aging Frank Shamrock way back in March of 2008 and he’s been missing in action ever since. At least as far as our sport is concerned.

So what happened that has prevented this exciting fighter from defending his newly obtained Strikeforce championship for what is currently over a year and four months? Surely it had to be something serious, right? A shattered spine or broken neck suffered in training maybe? Those injuries would definitely take time to come back from. No, Cung Le has been taking this precious time away from this great sport to focus on his career making movies.

According to IMDB Le has appeared in the recent film “Fighting”, which is about…. you guessed it, fighting. Underground street fighting to be a little more specific. Exactly the type of theme the community of mixed martial arts would be proud to showcase to the masses, right? Not so much in this writer’s humble opinion.

Listed as movies set to be released in the near future featuring Cung are Pandorum, Tekken, Su Qi-Er, and Sap yueh wai sing. The latter two are set for release in… China.

I could understand if he’s busy blowing the doors off the hinges of Hollywood but taking a look at his latest projects makes me wonder if Cung ever plans to fight again.

In a recent interview with Maggie Hendricks from Cagewriter, Cung was quoted as saying, “I talked to Scott and he said he is going to do an interim belt very soon. I talked to him last week and it is going to happen after this fight.”

Shame on you Cung Le for letting that happen.

Call me old school or call me a cranky SOB, but I’m from the crowd that believes a champion has an obligation to defend their title. Step up or step down, it’s that simple.

Interim title? I could understand the reasoning behind the “paper belt” in some cases, such as when Sean Sherk was held up in proceedings due to his dirty drug testing following his title defense against Hermes Franca, or Mir and Nogueira facing off when Randy Couture had been away for far too long; but to create an interim championship due to a champion’s unwillingness to fight, for any reason, should result in that “champion” being stripped of that belt that countless others would be proud to wear.

Others such as Jake Shields, Joey Villasenor, Tim Kennedy; hell, I’m sure Nick Diaz would have no problem staying right at 185 pounds and challenging for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. Say what you will say about Diaz, but he is a real fighter, and he fights consistently, without excuses.

I don’t care if you are a fighter as honorable and as respected as “The Natural” Randy Couture and you have (theoretically) defended your strap 20 times; If you don’t want to fight, that’s cool, just get out of the way and let the risk-takers sort it out amongst each other.

However, what makes matters worse is the fact that Le is far from a warrior as established as Couture. Let’s be real folks, Cung has fought a whopping six times in his professional mixed martial arts career. His biggest win outside of his championship victory over Frank Shamrock was over… Sammy Morgan? Excuse me for not being too impressed. And since when has beating Frank Shamrock been an excuse to step away from the game. So you beat Shamrock and that’s it, nothing more to accomplish here? The previously noted Nick Diaz would beg to differ.

Of course the argument could be made that you have to go where the money is. Just the thought of it makes me sick to be honest. Is there nothing held above the almighty dollar anymore? A sense of responsibility? A sense of pride? Surely it’s not all about the money for Cung Le.

Either way Le will have at least one less fan to cheer for him if he ever does bless MMA with his appearance inside of a cage again.

If there’s one lesson I have learned in this life it’s to never forget where you came from and never turn your back on those that propelled you to where you are today.

  • metalmulisha says:

    Yeah they’d have a good reason to strip him of his title, but since they haven’t obviously they’re OK with him doing these movies. I mean Cung draws more people to the H.P Pavilion than anyone they have at Strikeforce now so I’m they want to keep him happy right or wrong.
    And even if they stripped him of his belt when he did come back his first fight would be for the title anyway.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I am glad to see Coker making a interim title, at least you get somebody deserving in there. It really doesnt matter how much longer he is away though because likely the interim champ will tear him up. While i do not like the fact that he is not defending his title, i am not against fighters making money elsewhere. If done correctly, like when Randy filmed the scropion king 2 after a fight, GSP was in a movie between fights. Thoes are examples of how a champion handles it. I also remember seeing him on ESPN2 strikeforce events. He was allways facing somebody that looked helpless, well for his next fight I think he will be on that end for once.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Way to light em’ up, Corey.

    Thanks for saying what a lot of us have been wanting to for quite some time now. It never should have gotten this far though. March of 09 and there should have been a bout THAT MONTH to settle this. I simply find his actions in=-excusable.

    You’re a champion. Defend your title. Plain and Simple.

  • shotokai_ says:

    Spot on, Cory. Nice piece.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:


    Sorry for where it’s posted but look at this. Could this be…..

    (removed link)

  • fanoftna33 says:

    taht article sounds kind of vague. Somebody not affiliated with them said this but doesnt want us to know who it is. We all hope its true and the way its been going yes it could happen, but I dont belive it until the fat lady sings. Or Fedor walks out with Dana on Friday.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    I’m not trying to make anyone believe it. I just want to get this out to the community.

    *High fives self*

  • Cory Brady says:

    Insane! I was on top of that as you were writing that comment ozz. Great minds think alike, lol. Good find. Don’t know how “set in stone” it is, but it’s news never the less. We’ll just have to see what happens Friday.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Awesome brother!!

    Now if we could just get some “inside word” on Tito…..

  • fanoftna33 says:

    The best possiable outcome of the press conference friday would be Dana announcing they have Fedor and his next opponent… Tito walks out. It couldnt get any better.

  • edub says:

    Damn Friday’s announcement (could be):

    Dana White:”We are proud to announce the return of two legends to the Octagon; ladies and Gentlemen Vitor Belfort and Tito Ortiz!!!”

    Everyone goes nuts

    Dana White:”Oh and one more thing the… This has been a long time coming…the greatest fighter who ever lived is now in the Octagon….FEDOR EMELIANENKO!!”

    Everyone goes nuts.


    Dream,Strikeforce,Sengoku,everyone else: “Shit”.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    LOL @ “shit”

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Hey Ozz,this would have to be Danas last wish, right?

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Well hell, I hope so. I’m gonna be sitting in front of my TV on friday, drinking a COORS LIGHT, waiting to pop the left over fireworks from the 4th of July.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Rain or no rain, dry sticks and grass be DAMNED!!!!

    This may be cause for celebration!!!

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Have they announced what time and where to see the conference?

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    I moved my response to you fan over to the other thread about the fedor announcement

  • egad81 says:

    I understand you guys would consider yourselves “hardcore fans” but if you think about it…. What would you do if you were make a few thousand fighting every few months and someone came along and said they would pay you tens of thousands to become more famous?
    I understand that Cung is the champ and he should be active but STRIKEFORCE still pulls the strings.
    There should be a clear rule about the belts and how long between defenses.
    Twice a year minimum would be great.
    I think Nick Diaz vs Shamrock was basically for the interim belt in my eyes.

  • roshambo says:

    Barring an injury or death in the family etc., fighers should have 6 months to defend their belt or they get stripped. The only way an interim belt should be issued is in the event of injury and if there is an injury that they know will cause a long delay, issue the interim belt ASAP. Strike force needs to get belts into rotation and get them around the waists of people that want to defend them. Middle Weight Kung Le has been idle for 1year 4months, Light Heavyweight Babalau for 9 months, Heavyweight Overeem won his title in November 2007 and there is a vacant Welterweight Belt. That is a whole lot of gold sitting idle. If Strikeforce wants to go to the next level of MMA like their Showtime deal would suggest, they need to get this stuff sorted out and quick. They have a lot of potential, I just hope they live up to it.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Thanks for looking Ozz.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    The ufc would never allow this to go on, although they do ggive most of thier guys(except Huerta apperently) freedom to do the side projects as long athey give notice and are still able to compete reasonably soon.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Remember when Serra hurt his back and missed his FIRST title defense they immediatly made a interim belt.

  • Kamakosmo says:

    Someone answer me this please….Does the Organization approach the fighter with a match, or vice versa? I like to think this as any sport (which is probably wrong but i’m a simple man) At no time, in any other SPORT, can a team/player deny there apparent defense of anything. Example, Can the Phillies tell Selig they don’t want to play for (insert reason here)? No, too bad. On the other hand, can Federer say no to defending a Wimbledon title? Yes he can….but there will be another Champ replacing him, he will be last years champ. All I’m saying is that if Le doesn’t defend his title within a certain period of time (MMA should be ~4 months) Title is up for grabs. Very easy solution, put it in the contract.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Champions in MMA usually get 6 months off between fights, and usually its the organiziation that brings the fight to them. Now certian fighters have a little more say in who they fight but if the ufc told Anderson he had to fight Machide and he absoultly refuses they can strip the title and possiably fire him.

  • drstu says:

    you’re saying it would be o.k. if he was making films in hollywood, but it’s not o.k. because he’s making films in china?

  • 40oz says:

    Man. Thank you writing what anyone knows who he is been wondering. Since I came across him 6 years ago I’ve been hyping him up. But after sham…rock fight. Everyone was looking at me like “dude he ain’t that good.”. I could only reply he gone hollywood.

  • cocoonofhorror says:

    i am a huge fan of Cung. i even wen to high school with the guy, but i dont disagree with anything you wrote.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    how about the fact that he’s not a young man any more, how about that he just doesnt want to keep getting punched and kicked in the head?
    If Cung Le can find a way to make more money doing something he enjoys and and not have to get beaten up constantly, good on him.
    I agree that the belt should have been taken from him long ago, but you cant begrudge him for wanting to take up movies instead of physical combat.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Should be like what Fan said. Defend the title. That’s what a champion does. Another thing is saying “I don’t want to fight this guy” for whatever reason. Team mates, friends, whatever. I think that as champion, if you blatantly refuse a fight, then yes, you should get your title stripped.

  • ryananddenine says:

    he a great fighter but really gave up on fighting. even if he comes back hes already getting old, and now off of a year and half layoff. nothing good could come of it. we got a taste of something good to only have it ripped away. thanks cung lee. diaz would kick his ass anyway.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    i get the impression he doesnt want to fight full stop, i dont think its a case of him picking and choosing his opponents. not like kj noons wasnt willing to fight nick diaz. I just dont think Cung Le has a need to fight anymore, and if thats the case i cant hate the man, its not like he’s shitting out on a fight, just has other options.
    regardless, strikeforce shoulda taken the belt some time back.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Good point about KJ hindsight, at least elite xc stripped him quickly. And I am with you I dont fault Le for making the movies, I think we are just a little dissapointed that he is taking a world title belt( something most of us can only dream of) and treating it like second fiddle.

  • I agree with Brady.

    Le can go and get bit parts in as many shitty movies as he wants but he has an obligation to Strikeforce.

    If he can’t fulfill that obligation, I say strip.

    And hell, when he gets back, run a “I never lost my title” angle with the current champ.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Hey that angle worked for BJ and Sherk, and it is not like the fans dont like watching the guy fight.

  • xiong76m says:

    i agree with all but your last statement. yess its all about money. what pro sports isnt about money??? it dont take a phd to see that. shit this whole website is about money. ur whole story is about money. u cant blame a guy for trying to make money cuz that is just stupid. other than that i agree.

  • Bullylover says:

    Man i’ve been wondering when cung le was going to defend his belt just the other day. I would really love to see Diaz stay at 185 and compete for the belt. I think hes the clear number 1 contender for the Mw belt in strikefoce

  • edub says:

    Yes Bullylover yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Diaz would make Cung Le look really bad I dont see strikeforce making this fight at all.

  • KUMITE KING says:

    The title says it all, “Step up or Step Down”
    I agree 100%

  • Batman says:

    Cung le is 37 years old so time is ticking for him. I understand why he is making movies. He needs to make his own version of bruce lee’s enter the dragon then go capture the ufc belt clean out the division and retire as the greatest ever.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I think that will happen in cung’s next movie.

  • I think they need to make him fight SOON or strip him. He has a big name in the Bay but the guy hasn’t fougth forever. Let someone else have a chance at the strap and if he decides he wants to fight again let him and the new champ go at it.

    If he wants to go act and do some other things then more power to him, but don’t hold the belt and the fans hostage.

  • […] of those familiar with my work will know that I’ve never been a huge fan of fighters entering show business while still active in the sport. I understand that you have to […]


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