MMA: yohihiro akiyama

Last call for Cung Le in UFC

July, 27, 2011
7/27/11
5:01
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Cung LeAP Photo/Jeff ChiuCung Le, left, wants in on the UFC's San Jose card -- or he wants out of MMA.
In mixed martial arts, Cung Le has a pair of nouns that he traditionally lives by -- Scott Smith and San Jose.

His world in MMA is just that focused, while his work as an action-oriented actor spans continents. What does this information tell us? Reading between the lines, possibly that he has a superstition against packing his bags before a fight.

The 39-year-old Le -- a kickboxer-turned-highly entertaining sanshou menace -- has fought all eight of his professional MMA bouts in Strikeforce’s long-time operational hub of San Jose, and he’s went 7-1 there. Two of those -- the only fights he’s been involved with since 2008 -- were against Scott Smith. He even played along by losing the first one improbably. At any rate, it’s no wonder he has joined the chorus of AKA fighters lobbying Joe Silva to fight on the UFC 139 card, which will be held right there in the Silicon Valley on Nov. 19. Though Le can do without a trilogy versus Smith, this is one party he doesn’t want to miss.

And the UFC should make sure he gets the invitation.

Le recently commented that if he fights again it would be in a UFC showcase, which he sees as feasible since his part-time gig at Strikeforce is now a part-time gig with Zuffa. As for the pesky little Showtime contract that could hold things up? Surely there’s a paper-shredder somewhere in Zuffa’s offices. At least that’s what Le is insinuating.

Obviously it wouldn’t be as easy as all that, but he’s got a point -- if the UFC is willing to meddle it can figure out a way to bring Le into the fold for that card. Here’s a guy who is more than a novelty act, less than a serious contender, perfect for at least one good intrigue fight in its middleweight division (Yoshihiro Akiyama would be colorful). And yet the bigger issue is that Le’s shelf life is running out. While he closes in on 40 years old, the window in which he is willing to fight in nonfictional bouts closes too. If the only way we’ll see the “Human Highlight Reel” fight again is in the UFC, then it should be in San Jose. Wouldn’t it be better to see him (at least) once more in the cage than never again?

Le has at least three movies coming out in the next year -- “The Man With Iron Fists,” “Dragon Eyes” featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, and “The Grandmasters” -- and is digging his new profession. There’s less and less incentive for him to continue fighting into his forties, and yet interest in seeing him compete hasn’t waned. Le sent in a note to Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White asking for a spot on the card, and they might want to at least listen to their employee here.

Why? If for no other reason than it might be the last time he asks.

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