ONE’s Thanh Le laments first-time decision in career: ‘You’ll never see that version of me again’

ONE’s Thanh Le laments first-time decision in career: ‘You’ll never see that version of me again’

Thanh Le made it 16 fights into his professional career before he finally went to a decision, and he didn’t like that feeling.

Le suffered his first loss under the ONE Championship banner just over 13 months ago when he dropped a unanimous decision to Tang Kai, which cost him the featherweight title.

It was a very unfamiliar situation, thanks to Le brandishing a perfect 100-percent finishing rate across wins and losses prior to that fight.

“It was my first decision, which was a weird feeling,” Le told MMA Fighting. “I’ve had like 14 amateur fights and like 15 or 16 pro fights, a lot of fights, and first decision ever. It was a nasty feeling, I don’t like it.”

While he didn’t lose in a landslide, Le knows he made enough mistakes and didn’t capitalize on openings Tang gave him. He appreciated the experience, especially considering prior to that night he had only ever gone past the second round once in his career. But the 38-year-old vet would prefer to live up to his go-big-or-go-home mentality in future fights.

“There were a couple of things that I did like about the fight,” Le explained. “We took it to championship rounds, we got to experience Rounds 4 and 5 and go all the way. Obviously some things that went wrong, [my punches] didn’t connect and we didn’t get the finish.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s a skill set thing that made me lose that fight. It was some decision-making and some strategic errors, which is an easy, easy fix. Some rematches talk about this and some don’t, but if we ran it back immediately, I think the fight would look completely different. I’m not saying I would have went out there and whooped his ass, but what I am saying is that I think the fight looked completely different.”

Le expected an immediate rematch, but Tang has been dealing with injuries that kept him out of action for more than a year. With Tang unable to compete, Le was booked into an interim title fight against Ilya Freymanov at the ONE Fight Night 15 card on Friday, Oct. 6, which airs on Amazon Prime in the United States.

While his sole focus remains on the fight directly ahead, Le still wants to wash away the bad taste of that loss to Tang. The only way to do that right now is to dispatch Freymanov inside the distance to reclaim his moniker as one of the best finishers in MMA.

“I’m very happy for the learning lessons from that fight, but you’ll never see that version of me again,” Le said. “I want that back. That’s unfinished business. Nobody wants to end on a ‘to be continued,’ and that’s how I felt that fight finished. We’ve got unfinished business.

“It’s not Ilya’s fault. [Tang Kai] is taking a little bit too long so we’ve got to get this interim title going. We do have to continue the division moving. Let’s do the interim title. Let’s establish who is going to be next when he comes back. I picture that being myself, so we can finish that unfinished business.”

As far as the interim title goes, Le appreciates the acknowledgement he’ll receive by adding another belt to his collection. But ultimately, he views his fight with Freymanov as a No. 1 contender’s bout with a little something extra on the line.

“There’s a couple of things on the business side that make the interim title matter a little bit more,” Le said. “Money’s a thing, matchups, contracts are very important. The main thing yes, I appreciate it, but this looks like a placeholder to me. I want that real one. I want Tang Kai because he took that from me.”

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