By Lance Edwards
Thanh Le (8-1) is the current interim LFA champion at featherweight (145 lb). At LFA 31, he defeated MMA Lab’s Bobby Moffett (11-3) to claim the belt, as current title holder Kevin Aguilar (13-1) was recovering from an injury.
“I was happy with the result, lots good happened. This is the one we wanted though, fighting Kevin. We’ve been waiting. After he won the title, he had the call up to the UFC but had broken his hand. I want to be the one who is called up after this fight.”
It’s been a year since Aguilar took Justin Rader (7-3) to a decision victory. Some fighters feel they don’t perform so well after as lay off, whereas others say that being out of fight camp they have the opportunity to improve skills they wouldn’t if they were fighting frequently;
“At this level, there’s lots of video tape of both us, so we both know what to expect. You have to go out there and be better. We’ll see in the cage whose plan is better and who can impose their game. To him, he said in an interview, ring rust isn’t a big deal. He’s been getting ready for this one. I don’t think ring rust will be an issue. I want the best Kevin; I don’t want a seventy percent Kevin. I compete to test myself and see where I’m at. I came to show I’m the best and I’ll keep testing myself.”
Le was a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 where he was on Urijah Faber’s team. In addition, he appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series where he stopped Lazar Stojadinovic (12-6) in the second round via head kick and punches. It was at TUF that Le got to know the grappling wizard Ryan Hall, and moved to Virginia to train and grow his skill set.
A lot of fighters want wins, and don’t care about how they get to where they want. This isn’t the case for Le;
“I grew up in a martial arts household. My brother, dad and even mom trained. It’s been installed since birth to be the best martial artist, the best person you can be. It’s all about getting better bit by bit. That’s why we fight, to know we can do it under pressure. Some guys are ok with just winning, but we are doing it for a different reason.”
One thing talking to Thanh that is clear is that he comes from a family of martial artists which has molded his philosophy of fighting. His father practicing Taekwondo all his life and the family has a taekwondo school in Louisiana. It is, however, not only Thanh who has embraced the sport of MMA;
“My brother has three awesome amateur fights. We are waiting for him to heal from surgery at the moment. He lives with me and trains here. He’s twenty-four so started MMA younger than me. A couple of other guys from New Orleans and my wife live in the house. We are all up here chasing the dream.”
Le has been training with Ryan Hall at Fifty-50 for over a year now and feels he has made significant gains;
“I’ve improved my striking, wrestling and jiu jitsu. It’s an insane amount of information I’ve gained. Since TUF I’m a smarter fighter, exploiting weaknesses. I can’t speak enough about how my grappling has improved, I’m totally different.
“With Ryan, we talk about core principles that have helped create this game. With striking, it’s similar when you break it down. You look for and take advantages of opportunities and what is open, taking what the opponent gives you. Bruce Lee talks about like being water and finding the easiest way. Can you go ten to twenty moves ahead?”
Le has never been out of the second round and all his victories have been finishes;
“Guys get frustrated, they know if the rest of the fight is like the first round they’ll be down on points. So guys try to push the pace, to pressure or rush in. I’m trying to ruin your plan and do damage; if you charge in, you meet the force coming towards you harder. If you try to close too fast, that’s when KO’s happen.”
One thing that is different in how Le approaches is with regards to strength and conditioning. Many fighters spend a lot of time on strength and conditioning work;
“I haven’t done a lot of strength and conditioning the last couple of years. I toned it down. When you talk about getting a two to three percent gain in muscle and strength, there are better things you can do with your time. I get my physical training in rolling and sparring and pushing the pace. I feel I can spend my time in a way that improves more in other ways like working on my skills.”
LFA 40 takes place in Aguilar’s home state of Texas, but it’s not so unfamiliar for Le with Louisiana being near;
“I’ll have a nice little group there. The people I live with will go and my mom and dad will drive up as well as my in-laws. It will be good.”