Cung Le

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Cung Le
Cung Le at Inside MMA.jpg
Le on the set of Inside MMA in August 2009.
BornCung Le
(1972-05-25) May 25, 1972 (age 50)
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight185 lb (84 kg; 13 st 3 lb)
Reach70 in (180 cm)[1]
Fighting out ofSan Jose, California, United States
TrainerScott Sheely, Shawn Liu (Sanshou)
Rank Black Belt in Taekwondo
Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu
Kickboxing record
By knockout12
Mixed martial arts record
By knockout8
By decision1
By knockout3
Other information
SpouseSunshine Spring Le
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog
Cung Le
Medal record
Men’s Sanshou
Representing  United States
World Championships
Bronze medal – third place 1995 Baltimore 80 kg
Bronze medal – third place 1997 Rome 80 kg
Bronze medal – third place 1999 Hong Kong 80 kg

Cung Le (Vietnamese: Lê Cung; born May 25, 1972)[1] is a Vietnamese-born American actor, retired mixed martial artist, Sanshou fighter and kickboxer. He competed as a middleweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), holding a record of 2–2 with the organization. In kickboxing and sanshou, he is a former International Kickboxing Federation Light Heavyweight World Champion, having a professional kickboxing record of 17–0 before moving to mixed martial arts. He defeated Frank Shamrock to become the second Strikeforce Middleweight Champion before vacating the title to further pursue his acting career. Le is perhaps best known in mixed martial arts for competing in Strikeforce, holding a record of 7–1 with the organization before its demise.


Cung Lê was born in Saigon, South Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). In 1975, three days before the Fall of Saigon, Cung Le and his mother Anne left Vietnam by helicopter.[2] Le's father stayed in Vietnam and was caught as a prisoner.[3] After a few months in a refugee camp in the Philippines, Le ended up in San Jose, California, where early discrimination and bullying inspired him to learn martial arts.[4] His mother enrolled him in Tae Kwon Do classes at the age of 10.[5]

Le began Wrestling competitively at age 14. After being inspired to box by Sylvester Stallone´s Rocky, Le graduated and earned All-American honors in Wrestling his junior year at San Jose High School[citation needed]. He went on to wrestle for West Valley College in Saratoga, California, and won the California Junior College State Championship in the 158 lb weight class in 1990 also earning junior college All-American honors. Le also is practiced in a variety of martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, Boxing, Kuntao and Sambo. He began training in Sanshou (Sanda) around age of 21 because it complimented his Tae Kwon Do and Wrestling background[citation needed]. Le held a professional Kickboxing record of 17–0 and is a three-time world champion in Kickboxing.

Sanshou and kickboxing career[edit]

Le is undefeated in his Sanshou/kickboxing career (17–0).[6] He has won three US Open International Martial Arts Championships (1994, 1995, 1996). In 1998 he won the Shidokan tournament championship.[7] He has also won four US National Championships (Orlando, FL, 1994, Dallas, TX, 1995, Baltimore, MD, 1997). He earned three bronze medals in his amateur Sanshou world competition compiling an overall amateur record of 18–3. He has been a three-time captain of the United States teams that competed and was the U.S. team captain at the World Wushu Championships in 1997 (Italy) and 1999 (Hong Kong). On December 15, 2001 he defeated Shonie Carter by unanimous decision in San Jose, California, to win the IKF International Kickboxing Federation Pro Light Heavyweight Sanda World Title.[6] In May 2003, Le entered into K-1 competitions where he garnered a 3–0 career record, including one knockout.[6]

Mixed martial arts career[edit]


Le made his mixed martial arts debut at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie on March 10, 2006, at the HP Pavilion at San Jose, knocking out kickboxing rival Mike Altman at 3:51 of the first round. Le first met Altman in San Jose, in 1999, in a kickboxing bout where he defeated Altman via a body shot in the third round. Three months later he faced KOTC veteran Brian Warren, knocking him out at 4:19 of the first round. Le had also faced Warren in a K-1 Sanshou bout where he won by decision. At Strikeforce: Triple Threat on December 8, 2006, Le defeated UFC veteran Jason Von Flue in 0:43 of round one, when the fight had to be stopped due to a cut from a kick. Le went on to fight Tony Fryklund. Le beat Fryklund via TKO due to strikes late in the third round. Soon after Le fought Sammy Morgan at Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives where he won the bout via TKO.

On March 29, 2008 at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Le, Le defeated long time MMA veteran Frank Shamrock in a fight co-promoted by Strikeforce and EliteXC at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Le won via TKO when Frank Shamrock's right arm (ulna) was broken after a series of kicks, making him the new Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. On September 17, 2009, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that Le had relinquished his belt after securing a major motion picture deal.[8]

Twenty-one months after his last fight, Le returned to Strikeforce to face Scott Smith at Strikeforce: Evolution on December 19, 2009. Le suffered his first MMA defeat there, losing via TKO at 3:25 of the third round. After the match, Le expressed interest in an immediate rematch with Smith. His wish was granted on June 26, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, in which Le defeated Smith via TKO in the second round to avenge his only MMA loss at the time.[9]

Ultimate Fighting Championship[edit]

Le has said that it is basically the UFC or bust for him at this point in his fighting career. “I know for a fact that if I do fight again, it’s going to be in the UFC. I’ve never fought in the UFC, but I would love to fight in the UFC. But right now because of my contract with Showtime and Strikeforce, hopefully things can work out because there is a show in San Jose that Cain Velasquez is the main event. I would love to fight in San Jose for the UFC ....”[10] In an interview with BloodyElbow on October 27, 2012, Le revealed he originally signed a six-fight contract with the UFC.[11]

Le was briefly linked to a matchup with Vitor Belfort on November 19, 2011, at UFC 139.[12] However, Belfort was removed from the bout and replaced by former Pride FC Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva.[13] Le managed to confuse Silva with his unorthodox kicks, and landed a spinning backfist that dropped Silva. During the second round, Silva managed to shake Le with huge punches and knees that completely broke Le's nose. Le was stunned, bloodied and fell to the ground, and the fight was stopped by the referee.[14] Afterwards, in the press conference, Dana White commented that it was a good stoppage and that Cung was taken to the hospital.

Le was scheduled to face former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin on July 7, 2012, at UFC 148.[15] However, due to an injury to headliner Vitor Belfort, Franklin instead faced Wanderlei Silva in a 190 lb catchweight rematch on June 23, 2012 at UFC 147.[16] Le instead faced former title contender Patrick Côté.[17] He earned his first UFC win via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Le faced Rich Franklin in the main event on November 10, 2012, at UFC: Macao.[18] Cung Le won the fight via KO with a powerful hook punch to Franklin's head at 2:17 of the first round.

The Ultimate Fighter: China[edit]

In November 2013, it was announced that Le would serve as the chief coach and mentor on The Ultimate Fighter: China, the China-based version of The Ultimate Fighter which began airing in December 2013.[19]

After over a year-and-a-half of being away from competition, Le faced Michael Bisping on August 23, 2014, at UFC Fight Night 48.[20] After an even start, Le was cut around both eyes in the second round, as Bisping began to land the more powerful strikes. Bisping eventually won the one sided fight via TKO in the fourth round.[21] Following the fight, Le tested positive for elevated levels of HGH and was subsequently suspended from competition for nine months.[22] However, after reevaluating the evidence against Le, the UFC increased his suspension to 12 months.[23] There has been some dispute of the test, as the testing laboratory in question was not WADA-approved, did not do the appropriate HGH test,[24] and destroyed the blood sample before confirmatory tests could be done.[25] Ultimately, on October 21, the UFC reversed their decision and rescinded Le's suspension in light of the aforementioned flaws.[26] On December 3, 2014, Le told the media that he instructed his manager to request Le's release from UFC due to the drug-test dispute.[27]

On December 16, 2014, Le was listed as one of three MMA fighters who filed a class-action lawsuit against Zuffa, LLC., the parent company of the UFC. The suit alleges that the UFC participated in anti-competitive practices that hindered fighters and their mixed martial arts careers. At the time Le was the only active fighter on the organization's roster to be involved in the lawsuit.[28]

Retirement from MMA[edit]

On January 20, 2015, his manager, Gary Ibarra, announced to the media that Le had retired from MMA. Le's decision came after reconsidering his career with his family. He had previously expressed his lack of desire to fight in the UFC and contemplated retirement following the performance-enhancing drug disputes he had with the promotion in 2014. Le believed that the UFC owed him an apology for accusing him of using drugs when the test results later turned out to be faulty. Le, however, said that his retirement was only in MMA. He talked about the possibility of returning to professional kickboxing competitions, where he was active prior to his MMA debut.[29]

Acting career[edit]

Le co-starred in the live-action Tekken film, based upon the popular martial arts fighting game, as Marshall Law, released November 5, 2009 for the American film market. Le had supporting roles in the science fiction film Pandorum with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, and Fighting, released in 2009 alongside Channing Tatum. He also starred in a Hong Kong martial arts film Bodyguards and Assassins, which was released on December 18, 2009; his film was the first time he worked with and had a fight scene with Hong Kong martial arts superstar Donnie Yen.[citation needed]

He also appeared in a Vietnamese music show Paris By Night 99 – Tôi Là Người Việt Nam where he was interviewed by Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen; this show also marked one of the few times Le has spoken Vietnamese on camera.[citation needed]

Le had a lead role in the 2012 action film Dragon Eyes, costarring Jean-Claude Van Damme and produced by Joel Silver. The movie is based on the Akira Kurosawa classic Yojimbo and is "MMA-themed".[30] Also in 2012, Le played Bronze Lion in The Man with the Iron Fists, a film directed by RZA.

In 2014, he starred in Puncture Wounds, an action film directed by Giorgio Serafini, co-directed and written by James Coyne.[31]

In 2015, he appeared as an abbot in the AMC TV series Into the Badlands.

He is set to appear in the action movie Savage Dog alongside martial artists and action stars Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror.[citation needed]

Film and television credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Sleight of Hand Victor
2001 Walker, Texas Ranger Himself TV series episode: "Legends"
2004 Kwoon Mort Ission Direct-to-video
2006 Dark Assassin The Assassin
2007 Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter Erik
2009 Fighting Dragon Le
Pandorum Manh
Bodyguards and Assassins Sa Zhen-Shan
Tekken Marshall Law
2010 True Legend Militia Leader
NCIS: Los Angeles Himself TV series episode: "Hand-to-Hand"
2012 Dragon Eyes Ryan Hong
The Man with the Iron Fists Bronze Lion
2013 The Grandmaster Tiexieqi
2014 The Ultimate Fighter: China Mentor Reality TV series
Puncture Wounds John Nguyen
2015–2017 Into the Badlands Cyan / Abbot 1 TV series; 4 episodes
2015 Hawaii Five-0 Yakuza member TV series episode: "Pa'a Ka 'ipuka I Ka 'Upena Nananana"
2017 Savage Dog alongside Scott Adkins and Marko Zaror
Security Dead Eyes

Fighting style[edit]

Cung Le was primarily a stand-up fighter known for his highly unorthodox striking. Drawing from his backgrounds in Wushu, Sanshou, Taekwondo, Wrestling, and Jiu-Jitsu. He had a particularly dangerous kicking game. He was perhaps best known for his use of the spinning back kick and spinning backfist, which he used to win multiple fights by knockout. [32][33]

Personal life[edit]

Le displays the flag of South Vietnam in his fighting uniforms to honor his Vietnamese heritage

Le has two sons with his ex-wife.[34] He is married to a Native American bikini model Sunshine Spring Le.[35] [36]

He often honors Vietnamese communities with the flag of South Vietnam in his fighting uniforms to remember his Vietnamese heritage.

He is fluent in both English and Vietnamese.[37]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Professional record breakdown
12 matches 9 wins 3 losses
By knockout 8 3
By decision 1 0
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 9–3 Michael Bisping TKO (knee and punches) UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Le August 23, 2014 4 0:57 Macau, SAR, China
Win 9–2 Rich Franklin KO (punch) UFC on Fuel TV: Franklin vs. Le November 10, 2012 1 2:17 Macau, SAR, China Knockout of the Night; Knockout of the Year (2012).
Win 8–2 Patrick Côté Decision (unanimous) UFC 148 July 7, 2012 3 5:00 Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 7–2 Wanderlei Silva TKO (knees and punches) UFC 139 November 19, 2011 2 4:49 San Jose, California, United States Fight of the Night.
Win 7–1 Scott Smith TKO (spinning back kick and punches) Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum June 26, 2010 2 1:46 San Jose, California, United States
Loss 6–1 Scott Smith KO/TKO (punches)[40] Strikeforce: Evolution December 19, 2009 3 3:25 San Jose, California, United States
Win 6–0 Frank Shamrock TKO (broken arm) Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Le March 29, 2008 3 5:00 San Jose, California, United States Won the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. Later vacated title. Fight of the Year (2008).
Win 5–0 Sammy Morgan TKO (body kick) Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives November 16, 2007 3 1:58 San Jose, California, United States
Win 4–0 Tony Fryklund TKO (body kick and punches) Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni June 22, 2007 3 0:25 San Jose, California, United States
Win 3–0 Jason Von Flue TKO (doctor stoppage) Strikeforce: Triple Threat December 8, 2006 1 0:43 San Jose, California, United States
Win 2–0 Brian Warren KO (punches) Strikeforce: Revenge June 9, 2006 1 4:19 San Jose, California, United States
Win 1–0 Mike Altman KO (punch) Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie March 10, 2006 1 3:51 San Jose, California, United States

Kickboxing/Sanshou record[edit]

Sanshou kickboxing record
17 wins (9 KOs), 0 losses
Date Result Opponent Event Location Method Round Time Record Notes
June 4, 2005 Win Brian Ebersole Strikeforce San Jose, California Decision (unanimous) 5 N/A 17–0
April 30, 2004 Win Brian Warren K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Las Vegas I Las Vegas, Nevada Decision (unanimous) 4 2:00 16–0
August 15, 2003 Win Phil Petit K-1 World Grand Prix 2003 in Las Vegas II Las Vegas, Nevada Decision (unanimous) 4 2:00 15–0
May 2, 2003 Win Scott Sheely K-1 World Grand Prix 2003 in Las Vegas Las Vegas, Nevada TKO (strikes) 2 1:13 14–0
December 15, 2001 Win Shonie Carter Strikeforce San Jose, California Decision (unanimous) 5 N/A 13–0 Won IKF World Light Heavyweight Sanshou Championship
September 15, 2000 Win Jeff Thornhill Strikeforce San Jose, California KO (spinning back fist) 3 N/A 12–0 Won ISKA North American Light Heavyweight Championship
August 5, 2000 Win Laimon M. Keita K-1 USA Championships 2000 Las Vegas, Nevada Decision (unanimous) 5 3:00 11–0 Defended ISKA U.S. Light Heavyweight Sanshou Championship
May 13, 2000 Win Mike Altman Strikeforce San Jose, California KO (double roundhouse kick) 3 0:30 10–0 Defended ISKA Light Cruiserweight Sanshou Championship
1999 Win Na Shun Gerile Art of War: China vs. USA Honolulu, Hawaii TKO (scissor kick) 3 N/A 9–0
May 15, 1999 Win Scott Sheely Strikeforce San Jose, California TKO (broken cheek bone) 2 0:59 8–0 Won ISKA U.S. Light Heavyweight Sanshou Championship
October 10, 1998 Win Dan Garett Strikeforce San Jose, California KO (body kick) 3 0:20 7–0 Won ISKA Light Cruiserweight Sanshou Championship
August 29, 1998 Win Arne Soldwedel 1998 Shidokan Cup Chicago, Illinois KO (right hook) 7 N/A 6–0 Won Shidokan Team USA Championship, 1998 U.S. Shidokan Cup final
August 29, 1998 Win Laimon M. Keita 1998 Shidokan Cup Chicago, Illinois Submission (foot lock) 2 N/A 5–0 1998 U.S. Shidokan Cup semifinal
August 29, 1998 Win Ben Harris 1998 Shidokan Cup Chicago, Illinois KO (spinning hook kick) 2 N/A 4–0 1998 U.S. Shidokan Cup quarterfinal
May 24, 1998 Win Minaru Taro Draka V Los Angeles, California KO (head kick) 1 N/A 3–0 1998 Draka Tournament final
May 24, 1998 Win Gaik Isrelyan Draka V Los Angeles, California Decision (unanimous) 5 N/A 2–0 1998 Draka Tournament semifinal
August 31, 1997 Win Jason Yee 1997 Kung Fu Championships Orlando, Florida Decision (unanimous) 5 N/A 1–0
Legend:   Win   Loss   Draw/No contest   Notes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Cung Le". ESPN. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  2. ^ "Cung Lee". Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  3. ^ "UFC Fight Night 48 video: Emotional Cung Le on his escape from Saigon and growing up without a father". 10 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Cung Le". UFC. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  5. ^ Cheng, Mark (2001-01-01). "Rising Son". Black Belt: 49.
  6. ^ a b c The Official Cung Le Website Archived 2009-02-28 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2010-08-27.
  7. ^ Kungfu Magazine: Magazine Feature Article. Retrieved on 2010-08-27.
  8. ^ "LE STEPS DOWN; SHIELDS VS. LAWLER FOR 185 BELT". 2009-09-17. Archived from the original on 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
  9. ^ Strikeforce: Cung Le TKOs Scott Smith. MMA Fighting. Retrieved on 2010-08-27.
  10. ^ "It's UFC or Bust for Former Strikeforce Champ Cung Le". July 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  11. ^ "UFC Macao: Cung Le says no to TRT". October 27, 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
  12. ^ "Vitor Belfort says he's fighting Cung Le at UFC 139 in San Jose". Archived from the original on 2011-10-19. Retrieved 2011-09-10.
  13. ^ "UFC 139 shakeup: Vitor Belfort out, Wanderlei Silva in against Cung Le". Archived from the original on 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
  14. ^ Hendricks, Maggie (2011-11-19). "Wanderlei Silva returns to win column over Cung Le at UFC 139 - Cagewriter - UFC Blog - Yahoo! Sports". Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  15. ^ "Rich Franklin Vs. Cung Le On Tap For UFC 148 On July 7th". March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  16. ^ "Rich Franklin steps into UFC 147 headliner against Wanderlei Silva". May 30, 2012. Archived from the original on June 1, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  17. ^ "Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote targeted for UFC 148". May 30, 2012. Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
  18. ^ Burke, Tim (August 5, 2012). "Rich Franklin Vs. Cung Le Set For UFC On Fuel 6 Main Event In Macau". Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  19. ^ "'The Ultimate Fighter: China' cast revealed, series debuts Dec. 7". November 16, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  20. ^ Luke Thomas (2014-05-24). "Cung Le vs. Michael Bisping headlines August Macau card, Hector Lombard vs. Dong Hyun Kim to serve as co-main event". Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  21. ^ Buster Evans (2014-08-23). "UFC Fight Night 48 Recap: Michael Bisping Destroys Cung Le". Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  22. ^ "Cung Le tests positive for HGH following UFC Fight Night Macau". September 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-30.
  23. ^ Iole, Kevin (1 October 2014). "Cung Le tests positive for HGH, receives one-year ban from UFC". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  24. ^ "Top scientist says to ignore Cung Le's HGH test result". Bloody Elbow. 8 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  25. ^ Marrocco, Steven (7 October 2014). "UFC remains steadfast in Cung Le's test result, but lab failed to meet WADA criteria". USA Today. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  26. ^ Al-Shatti, Shaun (21 October 2014). "Cung Le's suspension for elevated levels of HGH rescinded by UFC". MMAFighting. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  27. ^ Dave Doyle (December 3, 2014). "Cung Le requests contract release; calls UFC 'something I don't believe in anymore'".
  28. ^ "UFC class-action lawsuit plaintiffs include Cung Le, Jon Fitch and Nate Quarry". 16 December 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-16.
  29. ^ Marrocco, Steven (20 January 2015). "UFC vet, former Strikeforce champ Cung Le retires from MMA". MMAJunkie. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  30. ^ Moody, Mike (25 September 2010). "MMA fighter Cung Le joins 'Dragon Eyes'". Digital Spy.
  31. ^ Spring, Mike (2014-03-11). "What's new & noteworthy on DVD & Blu-ray – March 11, 2014". Times Union. Albany, NY. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  32. ^ /
  33. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Signature Moves: Cung Le". YouTube.
  34. ^ "KNOXX's Cung Le talks about 2008 and his upcoming movies for 2009". 2008-12-20. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
  35. ^ "Exclusive Cung Le Interview". 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  36. ^ "Cung Le on his rematch with Scott Smith". 2010-06-25. Retrieved 2010-06-25.
  37. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Nguyên Khôi phỏng vấn Lê Cung". YouTube.
  38. ^ "Black Belt Hall of Fame . Inductee Directory". Archived from the original on 2010-12-20. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  39. ^ Doyle, Dave (December 22, 2012). "Knockout of the Year: Cung Le vs. Rich Franklin". Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  40. ^ "Cung Le". Zuffa, LLC. Retrieved January 10, 2023.

External links[edit]

Preceded by 2nd Strikeforce Middleweight Champion
March 29, 2008 – September 17, 2009
Le stepped down due
to filming obligations
Title next held by
Jake Shields