The Battle for San Jose

The Battle for San Jose

Mar 21, 2008
There's a city in the South Bay known as a fight town.

Strip away the lard of a cushy but unique suburbia, and San Jose's bustling downtown remains with its frequent post-last-call tussles.

But that's not what makes it a fight town. The source of that reputation comes from Frank Shamrock (Pictures) and Cung Le (Pictures) -- two men ready to lay claim to the city.

They'll meet March 29 in an EliteXC-Strikeforce co-promoted clash, but their story originates inside the storied walls of San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy.

Nine years ago, Shamrock was preparing his mind and body for a young opponent named Tito Ortiz (Pictures). The submission fighter's intellectual curiosity and charisma made him a natural leader, elevating the grappling at the burgeoning gym. Meanwhile, owner and head trainer Javier Mendez, a world champion kickboxer, was aiding Shamrock in his quest to become the prototype for well-rounded mixed martial artists.

Le was also training at the gym. No one wanted to spar with the Vietnamese sensation, but inside AKA's all-purpose ring, Shamrock willingly entered the world of sanshou kickboxing.

The sparring session was a step up for Shamrock. It was just another day for Le.

Yet a brief video that surfaced online unveils a different plot. The ethereal ballad "Only Time" by Enya overlaps with a Visa commercial spoof, which depicts Shamrock dominating Le as "priceless."

"I never got the best of him in training," Shamrock admitted, however. "That's a Frank Shamrock (Pictures) production.

"Frank Shamrock (Pictures) knows what he's doing," the former UFC champion said about himself with a cadenced laugh.

Le recalled the session as a warm-up during which he pulled punches. Despite delivering controlled strikes, Le was "pretty sure that Frank saw a lot of flashes when he trained with me."

Regardless, both agree the upcoming mixed martial arts bout will be a step up in competition for Le. For Shamrock, it will be just another day in the cage. It just might be a rough one.

Vying for the Strikeforce middleweight title, Le will not conceal the weapons that put down Tony Fryklund (Pictures) and Sam Morgan (Pictures).

"What will mean a lot more [than the belt] is that I defeated Frank shamrock for the Strikeforce middleweight championship," said Le, a father of two.

The real trophy for the three-time world champion kickboxer would be knocking out Shamrock -- a feat yet to be accomplished by anyone, excluding Shamrock's early days fighting under Pancrase rules.

Le will not feel remorse if his shinbones -- the same ones that thud against heavy bags from San Jose to Milpitas, depending on where he is tuning up his unorthodox striking arsenal -- snap his opponent's arrogant streak or jaw.

Shamrock understands Le's kicks can be troublesome. However, supreme confidence in his own striking stifles doubt.

Out of shape and on one knee in his most recent outing, Shamrock employed his Tony DeMaria-honed boxing to outclass Phil Baroni (Pictures). Factor in preparation with long-time partner and legendary kickboxer Maurice Smith (Pictures), and Shamrock is anything but ill prepared for the Saigon-born fighter's offense.
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