Strikeforce anticipates early 2009 return for champ Cung Le
by Dann Stupp on Aug 14, 2008 at 12:30 pm ET
Soon after his grueling upset TKO victory over Frank Shamrock to win the Strikeforce world middleweight title, Cung Le announced that he planned to take some time off from competition.
Le, who pushed his career mark to 6-0 with that third-round TKO victory in March, will now test his acting chops. Strikeforce officials expect his return and first title defense sometime in early 2009.
"He deserves it," Strikeforce Vice President Mike Afromowitz told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) of Le's time off. "He deserves the time to do that, as long as he comes back in shape."
Le, an undefeated San Shou and K-1 kickboxer who made the transition into MMA in early 2006, stars in the soon-to-be-released "Fighting," which will be his silver-screen debut. Le was also recently cast as "Marshall Law" in the Hollywood adaptation of the hit video game franchise, Tekken, which is slated for release next year.
Le also has roles in the science-fiction/action flick "Pandorum" as well as "The Take Down," two movies that will also be released in 2009.
"It's good for us, having a movie star as a champion," Afromowitz said. "As long he continues training, it helps our league with him the face of the organization. We try to support those types of things with our fighters."
Le previously appeared in a few independent movies and an episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger" prior to his current gigs.
As for Le's return, there's always the potential for a rematch with Shamrock. Strikeforce officials know it's a bankable fight -- the first meeting produced 15,192 attendees for a solid $1.1 million gate -- with arguably the organization's two biggest stars.
Additionally, Strikeforce officials have big expectations for recent signee and PRIDE veteran Kazuo Misaki, who meets Joe Riggs next month at Strikeforce's Playboy Mansion event. The winner will be an immediate contender, though Riggs recently stated that he plans to drop to welterweight after the fight.
However, other options could come from outside the organization. Strikeforce and EliteXC have co-promoted in the past (including the first Shamrock vs. Le event), and the partner promotion could offer Le the chance to fight EliteXC middleweight champ Robbie Lawler or contenders such as Joey Villasenor, Murilo "Ninja" Rua and Scott Smith.