Cung Le Ready For San Jose Homecoming, UFC Debut

UFC 139 Open Workouts

Former Strikeforce champion isn’t scared of Silva

SAN JOSE, Calif. –– Cung Le’s appearance on the UFC 139 card is the latest road of a long journey. It’s also a homecoming of sorts.

Le is a longtime Strikeforce star, a former middleweight champion for the promotion that used to be based out of San Jose. He and Frank Shamrock turned the HP Pavilion into their own personal playground, setting a North American attendance record for an MMA promotion long before Strikeforce actually hit the national scene.

Few dreamed he’d ever step foot into the UFC Octagon, but Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce earlier this year made a bunch of things possible that probably weren’t before. He’d always wondered what it would be like to fight in the UFC, and his co-main event bout with Wanderlei Silva finally gives him the opportunity.

“I’m always dreaming, but now the dream comes true. Now I have to deliver,” Le says at the UFC 139 open workouts at Heroes Gym, just down the road from the HP Pavilion. “It’s the top of the food chain. I finally got there, and now I just have to eat the food.”

Le concedes that there’s a little more pressure going into his first UFC fight than he’s used to.

“I’m trying not to think about it. It’s an honor to fight in the UFC. I’m just going in there thinking about it being another fight,” Le says. “There’s just a little bit more intensity, and I’m going to have fun. “

Le returned from China in February, just two months before longtime friend Scott Coker and Silicon Valley Entertainment sold Strikeforce to Zuffa. Le used his time away from the cage to film a movie, working on his cardiovascular training and never really giving himself a day off. He’s kept up the same routine since returning to San Jose, albeit with a twist.

“I’ve been chasing my kids. They help me get in shape,” he says. “I came back injury-free. I felt really good. For the first three months, everyone was dodging me when we were sparring. But now I’ve been training with King Mo. I bring the heat, and he brings it right back.”

In Silva, Le faces a man who was once a legend, which is to say that he’s still a legend to fans but can’t quite cut it when it comes to the actual fighting part. That’s no disrespect to Silva; the damage accumulated in the wars that created the Axe Murderer myth leaves him without much of a chin these days. It’s actually a surprise that Silva is even getting another chance in the Octagon after his brutal knockout loss to Chris Leben at UFC 132. But legends being what they are – and being on short supply these days – Silva is getting what will likely be his final chance in the Octagon, despite what he would have you believe.

“Wanderlei’s back is against the wall. He’s probably more dangerous now. It’s like a do or die fight, even if he doesn’t think so. I’m going into this fight like it’s a do or die fight for him. It’s my first fight in the UFC and I’d like to perform well,” Le says. “I’m very confident. If I go in there and I’m hesitant with my technique, it won’t come out. I’m just going to go in there and fire away. I’m going to blank my mind and look for what’s open.”

Le isn’t scared of the vaunted Axe Murderer image, of the guy who used to go in the PRIDE rings and utterly demolish his opponents. For a moment in time, Silva was the scariest man on the planet. He still has that cold-blooded killer visage, but the chin that saw him through battle after battle in Japan has failed him more often than not, and Le says he’ll step into the cage on Saturday night without the least bit of intimidation.

“Very few people scare me. When my kids get sick, I get scared,” Le says. “But this kind of scared? I don’t get scared. Life is too short to be scared. If you live your life scared, then life will pass you by.”

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