There are only a handful of fights remaining in Cung Le’s professional mixed martial arts career, and he would like each of them to be meaningful.
Le is interested in main card-caliber bouts; a main-event showdown against middleweight contender Michael Bisping brings a smile to his face. He’d have to get in line, these days everyone seems to want a piece of Bisping.
But first, Le must resolve a more pressing issue: getting his right elbow back to 100 percent. He had surgery on the right elbow (bone spurs) shortly after a first-round knockout of Rich Franklin in November.
Le hasn’t specified how he injured the right elbow, but it’s likely the result of a near-perfect right hand that found Franklin’s face and sent him to the canvas. The punch was delivered at the 2:17 mark.
The left elbow, which was operated on before the fight with Franklin, appears normal but his right elbow isn’t responding positively to extensive workout routines. Until that injury fully heals, Le’s return to the Octagon remains uncertain.
“I’m still going through rehab,” Le told ESPN.com. “But my right elbow keeps getting reinjured whenever I try to step it up in training. So, I’m not going to push the issue.”
At 40 years old, Le can see the finish line. MMA has been good to Le: he’s compiled a respectable 9-2 professional record and claimed the Strikeforce middleweight title along the way.
His success as a mixed martial artist opened doors to an acting career. Le has made several movie and television appearances. He intends to continue acting when his MMA career comes to an end.
For now, MMA remains a major part of his life. But in the time remaining, there are a few things Le intends to check off his to-do list. A UFC middleweight title fight would be nice, but that isn’t where his focus is right now.
“I’d like to have high-profile fights and a shot at coaching on TUF, whether it’s here [in the United States] or in China, wherever,” said Le, who has won two fights in a row. “I have a few more fights and they should be good fights for me.
“I’m not going to accept just any fight, and at this point in my career I don’t have to. I’ve worked hard to be where I am. I’ve had a few setbacks, but other than that, I’m just going to heal up and whatever happens, happens.”
What he’d like to happen upon his return is a fight with Bisping. Le isn’t one to call out an opponent, but he isn’t shy about expressing his desire to take on Bisping -- who is the target of several middleweights these days.
Franklin (a former UFC middleweight champion) and Luke Rockhold, the ex-Strikeforce titleholder who suffered a first-round knockout May 18 to Vitor Belfort in his Octagon debut, have also expressed interest in facing Bisping next.
A fight with Bisping makes sense for Le; he currently isn’t ranked among the top 10 middleweights, but has looked good in his most recent outings. Besides, Bisping is the high-profile fighter Le covets.
Bisping versus Le warrants main-card status -- possibly a main-event slot. It would be a fun fight to watch. Plus, a win over Bisping secures a top-10 middleweight ranking for Le.
“That would be a great fight for the fans,” Le said. “That would be a big fight. But I’m not the one to make that decision. Whether I’m at the top of that list for the fight or on the bottom, it ultimately comes down to who Joe Silva and the UFC decide who we fight.”
Bisping, however, might be given some say-so in the matter. That would be good news for Le.
“Of those three, Cung Le would be the most attractive,” Bisping told ESPN.com. “He’s on a two-fight win streak. He just knocked out Rich Franklin. So I would fight him.”