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An athlete who fights for a cause

Updated: 2014-01-14 15:59
By Sun Xiaochen (

An athlete who fights for a cause

Cung Le instructs Chinese fighters during a mini clinic in Beijing, Jan 12, 2014. [Photo by Sun Xiaochen/China Daily]

Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight Cung Le has some powerful advice for Chinese fighters as mentor in the Chinese version of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC's long-standing reality TV show. The advice is simple; brain is as important as brawn.

Le, a Vietnamese-American fighter appeared at Fighting Empire in Beijing on Sunday to participate in an event to thank fans for their support and promote the TV show.

The 41-year-old demonstrated some signature stunts, like spinning kicks, during a clinic with Chinese fighters and he said the biggest challenge as a coach is to persuade his Chinese students to rest properly.

"Just make sure you don't over train," Le told China Daily after the event. "A lot of Chinese fighters get used to their old coaches pushing them to the limit and not giving them enough time to recover.

"Nowadays, it's not about how hard you train. It's about how smart you train."

A good working ethic is not enough, he said.

"The knowledge inside the octagon (the cage where UFC fights are held), diet and nutrition are extremely important. Everything is so scientific in the UFC. The Chinese fighters are just as talented as others but they just need the knowledge and coaching. This detail that will make a huge difference."

Le will stay in China for six weeks to share his fighting experience with 16 Chinese fighters, who will compete against each other in the 12-episode series in a weekly format to win a six-figure contract with the UFC.

Despite a brilliant record in the US, Le remained virtually unknown in the Chinese market until his third UFC fight at the Venetian Macao, where he defeated former middleweight champion Rich Franklin via a knockout.

"Winning in Macao is a big honor for me because I feel like martial arts came from China and for me to fight in China and defeat a former champion like Franklin in front of an Asian audience is really special," he said.

Inspired by Chinese martial arts master Liu Xiangyang, Le said some outdated traditions should be updated by innovation and inclusiveness.

"It's not about the grandmasters or honoring your coach anymore. Now it's the new era, it's about giving fighters the proper training to compete. It's time for the Asian martial arts community to wake up and to realize the game involves so many different elements. We have to evolve or we will become extinct."

Le has also appeared in kung fu movies.

He first came to the attention of Chinese audiences by starring with Hong Kong kung fu star Donnie Yen in a martial arts film, Bodyguards and Assassins, which was released in December 2009.

He recently starred in an action movie, Certain Justice, which will make its premiere in the US in March.

Le said he enjoys both roles, UFC fighter and movie star, and expects his efforts could improve the image of the Asian community in the US.

"I want to represent all Asian people. In America, you get the white guys who are always up against the villains, who are the Asians and the Asian nerds. I think it's time for someone to step up for the Asian guys to beat the white guys. I am proud when I represent Asia in fights and in movies."

Co-produced by UFC and Liaoning Radio Television, the Ultimate Fighter series, which premiered on Dec 7, is available to more than 830 million viewers on Liaoning satellite TV. The live finale to determine the inaugural winner will be held at Venetian Macao in March.

An athlete who fights for a cause

UFC Middleweight fighter Cung Le of the US (center) poses with owner of Fighting Empire Club (left) and Chinese fighter Yang Jianping (right). [Photo by Sun Xiaochen/China Daily]