‘It’s About Getting My Belt Back From Tang Kai’ – Thanh Le Pleased With Submission Win At ONE Fight Night 15
Thanh Le won the ONE Interim Featherweight MMA World Title in incredible – if somewhat unexpected – fashion last Friday, October 6.
The Vietnamese-American knockout artist kept his 100 percent finishing ratio intact in the main event of ONE Fight Night 15 on Prime Video, submitting Ilya Freymanov with a heel hook after just 62 seconds.
Le was buoyant post-fight and thrilled with his massive victory.
But now that he’s come down from the initial high, he doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself, instead viewing the interim belt as a step toward regaining the undisputed gold he lost to Tang Kai last year.
The 38-year-old spoke to onefc.com after his victory in Bangkok:
“A lot of things [had me extra fired up after the fight] honestly. I was a little nervous before this fight. There were a couple of things personally going through my head.
“It was really cool to be able to face a change of opponent with a short camp. Ilya is definitely dangerous. He had something to do with that as well. But it was nice to be able to feel that challenge and step up and perform the way I did.
“Obviously, on the business side of things, it’s nice to get the interim belt, but you guys know me better than that. It’s not about having a piece of gold. It’s about getting my belt back from Tang Kai. But I had to pass this challenge first, and the way I did it, I was very proud of myself.”
Le’s slick heel hook finish was just the second submission victory of his MMA career. With 12 knockouts – including five straight during his previous ONE World Title run – he’s built his reputation as a fearsome striker.
The Louisiana resident earned his BJJ black belt last year but hadn’t submitted an opponent in MMA since 2014. With that in mind, he’s glad to show the fruits of his labor on the canvas – and earn a US$50,000 performance bonus in the process.
“I’ve got a ton of great coaches around me, but the spotlight is on 50/50 [Gym] and my buddy [BJJ legend] Ryan Hall. A friend and coach. I feel like I’m starting to get better and better in that position and very confident in those areas, and who better to learn it from than the man?
“I still like hitting people. That’s a really good feeling. But, man, it really feels it feels good to rip a limb off. Obviously, my thoughts and my heart go to Ilya. I hope he heals quickly, gets back in there, and knocks a bunch of people out. But personally and selfishly, that [submission win] felt good, too.”
Thanh Le: ‘I’m Only Getting Better In Literally Every Aspect’
Now the ONE Interim Featherweight MMA World Champion, Thanh Le has officially set up a World Title unification showdown with Chinese star Tang Kai.
The pair were scheduled to rematch earlier in the year until Tang’s injury forced him out, and Le can’t wait to finally face off against his old foe for a second time.
Eager to set the record straight, the Vietnamese-American will enjoy his latest win before diving into preparations for the division’s reigning king:
“I’m gonna take my time and spend time with my family and reassess. We’ll start working towards the Tang Kai rematch so I’m getting my actual belt back and do round six since we’ve got an ugly, disgusting, nasty, unfinished fight that we’ve got to finish.
“But yeah, I’m excited to get back in there. He’s obviously very, very good. The fight’s going to look a little different, so we’ll let you see when the time comes.”
Just like his matchup with Freymanov last Friday, Le is promising to have some new tricks that will make for a very different battle with Tang the second time around.
It’s become cliche for a fighter to say they’re the best they’ve ever been, but despite being almost 40 years old, the Kentucky-born star is adamant that he’s a new animal.
Referencing his growth as a martial artist, Le said:
“No question, I’m the best version of myself at this stage in my career. I’m 38, and I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I’m the fastest, healthiest, and most mentally strong.
“Everybody says that when they’re a little older and on the backside of their career, but I am. It’s the truth, whether you believe me or not, that’s how I feel. I’m only getting better in literally every aspect.”