It has been more than a year since Thanh Le captured the ONE Featherweight World Championship with his stunning third round technical knockout win over Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in October of 2020.
As sweet of a feeling as taking home the gold was for the Vietnamese-American fighter, he’s ready to snap out of this honeymoon stage of being a world champion and return to action inside the ONE Circle.
Le is scheduled to face #3-ranked featherweight contender, undefeated American superstar Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon at ONE X, ONE Championship’s historic 10th anniversary show on December 5th.
It was certainly a long wait, but a lull that Le fully understood given the uncertainties of the current situation worldwide. Le updated fans what’s going on in training camp via a recent interview with the South China Morning Post.
“Even here at home, [we’re] being stingy with who you train with and who you hang around and all that,” said Le, who splits his training between Jackson Wink at Albuquerque and Moon College Taekwondo at home in Louisiana.
“I’m doing as much as I can think of to try to make sure I’m in a little training bubble and living my life in this little bubble so I won’t be exposed.”
Le is definitely happy that his more-than-a-year wait for his first title defense is finally over. He promised that he is coming into this fight a better fighter, ready to prove that he’s truly the king of the hill in the featherweight division.
However, Le did acknowledge the threat posed by Tonon, who is arguably one of the best grapplers in the game today.
“Obviously, his game plan is to touch me up on the feet and then put me down and do what he does best. And my game plan would be the opposite of that,” Le said, vowing not to let go of his belt that easily.
“I think it falls into the traditional grappler versus striker match-up, except unlike the old days, I guess you could say I’ve spent a lot of time grappling and he spent a lot of time striking. You can see it improve fight after fight so it’s going to be different than those fights but it’s going to give you a little bit of that nostalgic feel of grappler guy versus striker guy and let’s see what happens there.”
Le also pointed out that being the division’s hunted, he has to keep his eye out for potential next foes. Take for example, Kim Jae Woong who shocked the world with a huge first round knockout triumph over former champion Martin Nguyen last month.
“I was very interested in that match up. To see something like that, to see how [Nguyen’s] chin would hold up because I’ve hit a lot of people and I’ve never broken my hands. I hit this man hard and obviously, I broke my hands but it was interesting to kind of pay attention to that,” he said.
“But watching Kim fight and seeing the way he approached the game is interesting. It’s very dangerous, [he’s] very confident, and I think he’s a good fighter. If we make it past Garry, which we’re working on that, I think that’s going to be a really fun match up if that comes to fruition.”
Still, Le’s main focus is on Tonon, and he’s determined to score another emphatic victory to show why he really is the king of the weight class.
“I know you all talked about [this fight] going to the judges, but this thing ain’t going to the judges,” he said before turning to his challenger.
“Garry, you’re going to choke me, tap me or I’m knocking you out or something. Something’s going to happen, we’re going to [expletive] each other up and I’m super excited.”
ONE Championship returns on Friday, October 15 with ONE: First Strike. The main event features a battle for the inaugural ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Championship between Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan and Superbon.