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.