By Dan Elliot, EnStarz | Jul 06, 2012 11:57 AM EDT
For Cung Le, 2012 should be a big year.
His film Dragon Eyes, in which he co-starred with Jean-Claude Van Damme, went direct to video, but the expectations are much bigger for his next film, The Man With the Iron Fists, which sees him star alongside Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu with a screenplay written by Eli Roth (Hostel) and marking the directorial debut of Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA. Another film, The Grandmasters, is in post-production, and the biopic of Ip Man (the martial arts master who trained Bruce Lee), is due for release in December.
Like Us on Facebook
Right now, though, Le has a more pressing - and less scripted - matter to attend to. On Saturday night, he'll face Patrick Côté as part of the star-studded UFC 148 fight card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
With a successful film career that includes roles alongside Dennis Quaid (Pandorum) and Channing Tatum (Fighting), the 40-year-old Le could easily retire from fighting competitively. However, after amassing a 17-0 record as a professional kickboxer and winning the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship during his 7-2 MMA career, Le is enthusiastic about the challenge of fighting in the top MMA promotion on the planet.
"What drives me to keep fighting is just the competition," Le said on Thursday in an interview with MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani. "I've always wanted to be part of the UFC, because it's the flagship. To be part of the UFC, I've felt like, 'You're in the major leagues now.' If I'm able to still compete, then I'm going to compete as long as I could."
Le made his UFC debut in November, losing to the legendary Wanderlei Silva via knockout at UFC 139. However, Le impressed enough to share "Fight of the Night" honors with "The Axe Murderer," and got himself another bout for UFC 148. His originally scheduled opponent, Rich Franklin, was called on to fight against Silva last month at UFC 147, so instead, Le will face Côté, a former No. 1 contender who has rebuilt his career following a major knee injury, and bounced back after being cut by the UFC to earn a return invitation with a four-fight win streak.
"Can't overlook Patrick Côté," Le said, "because even though he's been out of the UFC, he's got a four-fight win streak underneath his belt, and he's very hungry to come back. But I'm very hungry to get my first win in the UFC."
That hunger continues to drive Cung Le, a master of the Chinese kickboxing form of Sanshou who holds black belts in both Taekwondo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, even as his movie career grows. In fact, Le has turned down a number of movie roles to focus on fighting.
"If the movie's big enough," Le said, "I'm going to jump on it, but I've turned down a lot of small parts - or even bigger parts in small movies - that don't really excite me that much, because I'm excited about fighting. But if something that's going to be a career changer like The Man With the Iron Fists, or to star in my own movie, like Dragon Eyes, and choreograph all my own fights and then work with legendary film director from China like Wong Kar Wai and Master Woo-ping [Yuen], those are the things that you can't turn down."
For now, though, he'll look to put down Côté on Saturday night
"My true passion is fighting, competing and doing martial arts, and if I'm able to do it in both arenas, I'm going to try to do it as long as I could."
Copyright © 2013 ENSTARZ.COM All rights reserved.