To make it to the press conference after his first Ultimate Fighting Championship win, Cung Le needed a wheelchair. The cut above his eye required stitches, and he’d bruised a foot so badly kicking his opponent in the head that he was worried it was broken. As he made his way to his microphone on crutches, he recalls, he already knew his boss was pissed that he looked so obviously hurt. When Dana White, president of the mixed martial arts promoter, saw Le wheeling to the press conference, Le remembers him saying, “What the f---?”
The event that night had drawn 15,000 people to Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Garden Arena, with 900,000 pay-per-view customers watching at home. When a reporter asked Le, who’d won a unanimous decision in one of the main undercard bouts, what he’d do next, the 40-year-old middleweight said he wasn’t sure. In his mind, he says, he was thinking mostly about tending to his throbbing foot. White, whose company had recently acquired the rival promoter Le previously fought under, jumped in with a different response: “What he meant was, ‘I’m going to go back, get back in the gym, and I’d love to fight in China.’ I’m translating for Cung.” The crowd laughed.