From a fighting perspective, a sense of normalcy has returned to Cung Le's life. He's regained his rhythm, his body feels excellent and, emotionally, Le is his old self again.
While acting remains on his resume, Le has put that part of his life on hold for nearly a year. These days, it’s all about mixed martial arts.
“Every time I fight, I fight to win and this win will mean a lot,” Le told ESPN.com. “My last victory when I beat Patrick Cote -- my win in UFC 148 -- was very emotional. I get very emotional after every fight, especially after a big loss to Wanderlei [Silva].
“After this one, I expect I will get even more emotional.”
For Le, 40, beating Rich Franklin will mean more than a second straight win in UFC. It will mark the culmination of arguably his most difficult training camp.
During preparation for this bout, Le (8-2) had to battle through physical pain. An injured right foot, which he sustained during his July 7 unanimous decision over Cote, caused Le discomfort at the beginning of training camp.
But the former Strikeforce 185-pound titleholder refused to take any shortcuts during his workout. Despite the pain, Le fought diligently through every physical regimen his trainers demanded of him.
“People don’t understand the therapy, the treatments I had to go through [after the Cote fight] to get back,” Le told ESPN.com. “I thought I had a broken foot, but I had a deep bone bruise in my [right] foot.
“The doctor gave me 6-8 weeks to get cleared to start training. I went through a lot of pain. It’s been rough. I couldn’t train like I usually do, but I continued to push hard. And I’m going to do my best to make it pay off [Saturday night].”
Le says he feels 100 percent physically and mentally for Franklin. His movement and timing have returned to normal levels. There is no more pain in his right foot and a few wrinkles have been added to his offensive repertoire.
In an effort to maintain that timing for Saturday’s bout, he arrived in Cotai Strip, Macau, two weeks in advance.
The UFC-promoted main card is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET on Fuel TV. Franklin (29-6, 1 no contest) and Le square off in the main event.
But Le says the unusually early start time won’t hinder him; his timing and rhythm are on point. He feels good heading into this fight, which has consumed all his attention.
A victory could lead to higher-profile bouts, but Le isn’t looking ahead. Even previous talk of a rematch with Silva has been tabled.
For now, it’s all about beating Franklin, nothing else. Besides, a win will make it easier to remove the images of that second-round TKO loss to Silva in November 2011 from his mind.
Le had been out of action for more than a year heading into his fight with Silva. But the inactivity factor did not ease the pain of that loss, which occurred in Le’s UFC debut. For many months, he couldn't put that loss to bed. That began to change after the fight with Franklin became official.
“I did mention wanting a rematch with Wanderlei, but it’s not a priority anymore,” Le said. “Whether I get it or not, I don’t care at this point. A win over Rich would be satisfying.
“Styles make fights and I just got caught against Wanderlei. In my head [a win Saturday] it will make me feel good knowing that Rich did beat him twice.
“I’m taking it one day at a time. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so my ultimate goal is to get that win against Rich Franklin.”
Like Le, the 38-year-old Franklin is seeking his second win in a row. He defeated Silva by unanimous decision on June 23 in Brazil in a rematch that was contested at 190 pounds.