UFC 139: Cung Le ends layoff, ready to focus on fighting

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Cung Le badly needs a victory this weekend.

Any chance at a playoff berth for his fantasy football team is at stake.

As for his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut, the 39-year-old middleweight is far less concerned with what a win would mean for his fighting career.

“I fit in wherever people think I should fit in,” he said. “I don’t really think about that. My job is just to be focused and ready to go Saturday night, and that’s all I worry about. I’m not worried about the numbers or the rankings. I only do that in fantasy football.”

Le, a former Strikeforce champion, will fight for the first time since June 2010 when he takes on Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139 today at HP Pavilion.

Le has fought just once each year since 2008 as he has split time with his other profession as an actor. He may have sacrificed greater acclaim in mixed martial arts with the time he has spent making movies, but Le says he is fully committed to fighting right now.

“My fight career is what got me to where I’m at, so it means everything,” he said. “Just look at it this way: I’m a guy with two full-time jobs. I fight full time, and I make movies full time. I just have to juggle both careers.

“I could have hung up my gloves and done movies, but I am a fighter first and actor second.”

A highly decorated kickboxer, Le possesses perhaps the most impressive array of kicks in the sport and will look to take advantage of Silva’s chin, which appears to be weakening after years of epic slugfests.

The 35-year-old Las Vegan is 1-3 in his past four fights with two knockout losses and is coming off a 27-second KO loss to Chris Leben in July.

UFC president Dana White expressed his hope Silva would retire, but the Pride Fighting Championships legend has no such plans.

“I think my performance in this fight will (allow) me to fight again,” Silva said. “I don’t want to retire, and I know that if I perform like I do in the gym, I will make everyone happy. I don’t have (retirement) in my mind. I have trained too hard, and am too good and in too great condition.”

The main event pits former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson against former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

Like Silva, Henderson and Rua were stars in Pride, the defunct Japanese organization.

“This is a marquee fight for me,” Rua said. “I came very close to fighting Henderson in Pride on two occasions, but these fights never happened. This is a great fight. It could have been a huge fight in Pride in 2006, and it is a huge fight in the UFC now.”

Henderson left the UFC when his contract expired after a brutal knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC 100 in July 2009. The 41-year-old went 3-1 in four lucrative fights in Strikeforce, but returns to the UFC with the organizations now under the same ownership.

“I enjoyed my fights in Strikeforce, and the organization treated me well. I have no regrets. It was a good business decision,” Henderson said with a smile. “I’m going to finish up my career in the UFC, and I am excited by it.

“I think it is fair to say I’ve accomplished a lot in the sport, but one thing I have not accomplished is winning the UFC title. I like to set goals, and that’s a big one.”

The pay-per-view card, which will begin at 6 p.m., also features a No. 1 bantamweight contender bout between Brian Bowles and Urijah Faber, with the winner likely to face champion Dominick Cruz.

At least two fights will air live on Spike TV (Cable 29) at 5 p.m. The remainder of the undercard will stream live on Facebook at 2:45.

When the card is over, Le says he can turn his attention back to his fantasy team on Sunday morning.

“I’m only at .500 because Peyton Hillis and Andre Johnson got hurt. I lost two really good players there,” he said. “I do have Tom Brady, though, and I picked up Cam Newton for just $1.”

Brady figures to have a big game Monday night against a suspect Kansas City Chiefs defense. Le hopes he can find similar success tonight against Silva.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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