Lost in the shadow that Fedor Emeilanenko's return to the cage this Saturday night casts is a rematch that is sure to provide fight fans with the kind of action we all so desperately crave.
Starring in said fight is one Cung Le.
And "starring" is the operative word here. Not only is Cung Le one of the best middleweights the sport of mixed martial arts has to offer, he is one of the very few (liberally speaking) fighters that have successfully parlayed his MMA career into a legitimate acting profession.
But the time has come for Mr. Le to truly focus on one arena in order to perform to the best of his ability. The decision has been made.
Scott Smith, be warned.
In anticipation of his rematch with "Hands of Steel" this Saturday night (June 26) on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Le took some time to talk with MMAmania.com about balancing his career[s], Scott Smith, and his future in the fight game.
Have a look.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Thanks for your time today Cung. Let's start out with some Hollywood talk. You're one of the few, if not only MMA fighter, to make the move to Hollywood and star in actual, legit movies. One other prominent fighter just joined you in that space, Quinton "Rampage Jackson. Grade his performance in the A-Team.
Cung Le: Well, I haven't seen the film yet, but from everything I've heard and from the few clips of the movie that I have seen, he did really well. That role was perfect for him.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Talk about the movie Tekken. I know Roger Huerta worked on that project as well. It was slated for release this year, is that still the case?
Cung Le: I actually don't know what's going on with Tekken. I know they ran over budget and there was some CGI problems. I shot the movie back in 2008, so it should have been released by now. I think it will be released overseas before it is released here in the United States. It's unfortunate, but that's part of the business.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): What other acting projects do you have in the pipeline?
Cung Le: There have been a few projects that have come through that I've passed on because I wanted to focus 100% on fighting. I know my agent wants to sit down with me after this fight to talk things over because there is a big project in the pipeline for me. But right now I'm not really focusing on those types of projects because I have a big fight coming up.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): This next question is kind of from left field, but are you aware you've never fought outside of the HP Pavilion San Jose, California in your MMA career? Of course this weekend's fight is right back in San Jose. Is that purely a coincidence? And does being so familiar with a venue hold certain advantages?
Cung Le: I was actually hoping that I could take the show on the road but they [Strikeforce] wanted me to fight in San Jose because of my drawing power there. I really wanted to fight on the Strikeforce: "Los Angeles" card, but I'm excited to be back fighting in San Jose. Regardless of where the fight takes place, I'm not sure if it holds any advantage or disadvantage. If anything it just adds more pressure, but I feel like the pressure is off me now that I have loss. I'm coming off the crazy come-from-behind knockout loss to Scott [Smith], but that was last year. This is a whole near year and I'm excited to get this rematch.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): To that last point, were you surprised that Scott Smith agreed to a rematch considering how the first fight played out?
Cung Le: I think Strikeforce just likes to put on exciting fights and they knew our fight was really exciting. With Fedor coming to town, I think they wanted to stack the card for San Jose and make it like a mega-fight card. I think the fans are going to enjoy it again. Matchmaking is tough. I thought the "Rampage" and Rashad Evans fight was gonna be a shootout but it turned into a chess match. Fights can look good on paper, but you never know how they'll turn out. Obviously we already fought, so the rematch is very likely to be another shootout.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Will you be changing your game plan or strategy much for this fight seeing how you dominated the first go-round until Smith came back late?
Cung Le: Well, I'm definitely gonna listen to my corner more. I'm still gonna come out guns blazing because that's what I do. But in the 3rd round, my corner told me to kinda go in and out and stay busy because I already had the fight won. But I tried to knock him out, ended up blowing my wad, and got caught. It was a bad decision on my part. I should have listened to my corner. I learned the hard way. The saying is very true that you ‘learn more from a loss then a win.' I'll be sticking to my game plan this time around. I just have to fight a smarter fight. And with a full training camp under my belt for this fight, it'll be completely different. Last time Scott [Coker] called me up seven weeks before the fight and said, ‘We need a main event for December, will you fight?' So I stepped up. I had been out of action before then really for 21 months. I was just focused on my movie career and promotional obligations I had. My hands and shins weren't as sharp as when I fought Frank Shamrock, so I felt like I was kinda a weekend warrior. I mean, not only does Scott Smith have hands of steel, but he has a head of steel. But this time around my blades are sharpened.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Talk about your intentions and plans long term in this sport. Are you still in it to recapture your title? What's your ideal schedule in terms of MMA action?
Cung Le: Well, I'm not getting any younger. I've committed a lot of time to mixed martial arts over the last six months. Before then I was juggling both careers, movies and fighting. But now just focusing on one career, it has given me more time to spend with my family. My wife is actually due at any moment now [Le's wife Suzanne gave birth to a healthy baby boy on June 21]. We were hoping the child would come before the fight, but it is what it is. But this is my title fight. You don't get another chance at something like this, so I have to take full advantage of it. I haven't forgotten about my movie career, and I'm sure I will one day return to it, but my focus is on performing to the best of my ability on June 26. I can't do this forever, but martial arts is where I come from and I will never turn my back on it. The reason I am where I am today is because of martial arts.
James Kimball (MMAmania.com): Congratulations to you and your wife and thanks again for your time. Any sponsors or website you'd like to plug?
Cung Le: Thank you for the interview. First of all, l I want to thank all the fans for their support. Fans can visit my sponsor's website at cagehero.net, who created an awesome walkout shirt for me. I want to thank Scott Coker and all of the Strikeforce crew for being so good to me. And, of course, I want to thank God. I'm ready to go. Don't miss it.