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Kung fu star wins big China audience

By Matt Erspanmer and Wang Kaihao | | Updated: 2012-07-03 14:49

Cung Le, a 40-year-old Vietnamese-born United States fighter, was surprised his micro blog became so popular in China.

In a matter of only 100 days, Le, who specializes in the sanshou kung fu style, or unsanctioned fight, managed to acquire 500,000 fans on his Sina Weibo account with regular updates including his recent acceptance into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tournament.

“UFC is like a flagship franchise,” said Le, whose face became well known to Chinese spectators via the nine-minute fight against Donnie Yen in the 2009 movie Bodyguards and Assassins. “It’s like getting into the major leagues.”

The UFC tournament, which was founded in 1983, is the world’s largest mixed martial arts competition. The multi-million dollar franchise broadcasts fights on television that are accessible around the world.

Le’s move into UFC fights, combined with his work in both American and Chinese films, has allowed him to garner a more international audience, especially in China.

While his trainer Scott Sheeley has been helping him stay focused as UFC 148 approaches on July 7, Le still got around to making a trip to China, where he just completed two projects. One of them was an American film called Man With the Iron Fists, by longtime filmmaker Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, who is also known as RZA. Le acts opposite big Hollywood names Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu as well as his director. The other project was The Grandmasters, directed by legendary Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai.

“I love participating in Chinese kung fu movies. It is Asian power,” he said, employing a phrase he often uses on his weibo account.

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