For martial arts enthusiasts in the New Orleans metro area and throughout Southeastern Louisiana, almost nowhere is more iconic than Moon College Taekwondo. Its owner, Grand Master Le, has passed down his 5 decades of martial arts experience to generation after generation – and he has passed that experience and tradition down to his two sons. Thanh Le is 9-2 as a professional mixed martial artist, and he’s currently signed under the ONE FC banner. His debut with the Singapore-based promotion was a stupendous second-round knockout of Yusup Saadulaev back in May. Master Le’s second son, Vinh, 9 years Thanh’s junior, is following in the family’s footsteps. He’s 3-0 as an amateur fighter, and he is set to take on Jamal Peyton at Bayou Fighting Championship 39, this Saturday, July 20th, at the Copeland Towers in Metairie, Louisiana.
Being born to a taekwondo and kung fu master, Vinh was practically raised in his family’s gym. In fact, he and his mother were awarded their taekwondo black belts at the same time. It was this upbringing in martial arts that eventually led to his interest in MMA:
“I didn’t have a choice, being born, it was straight into martial arts, since I was 3, and I’ve been doing taekwondo ever since. It basically got me into fighting. I was the first one to see cage fighting on TV, and it was like ‘Oh I want to do that, it seems cool.’ Me and my brother and Carlos Vera, he’s been at Moon College since before I was born, we went to watch some local fights, probably 7-8 years ago. And, we were all like, ‘I think we can do this! I think we can hang with these guys!’ But, [at that time] all we could do was kick and move our feet real good. We didn’t really do anything else. So, we started our training right there, jiu jitsu and boxing, stuff like that. We had our leg in the door, and started doing well, and we have come a long way. We realized that we had a big advantage over a lot of guys with our footwork and movement. People aren’t used to that. It was built into our style, and it worked out well.”
“That’s what makes our family so close. [Our parents have] been training us to be good athletes and good fighters our whole lives, and they made us the fighters and people that we are today.”
Vinh and his older brother Thanh began training, splitting time at Moon College and Mid City MMA in New Orleans. Thanh cut his teeth in the sport first, going 3-0 as an amateur and compiling a professional record of 4-1 by 2015. That year, Vinh would take his first amateur bout, a first-round knockout of Ryan Moret at WFC 39. With the brothers finding success in the sport, their parents, as usual, had their backs.
“[Our] parents are 100% supportive. To this day, my mom does my meal prep, re-hydration after weigh-ins. My dad holds pads! They try to be involved in every way. That’s what makes our family so close. They’ve been training us to be good athletes and good fighters our whole lives, and they made us the fighters and people that we are today.”
The year 2015 would prove to be monumental for the Le brothers. Thanh was chosen to be featured on the UFC series The Ultimate Fighter season 22, Team McGregor vs. Team Faber. Thanh, along with current UFC up-and-comer and Brazilian jiu jitsu prodigy Ryan Hall, were selected to be on the team of Urijah Faber. The teammates decided to continue training together after the show ended, with Hall visiting New Orleans, and the Le brothers taking trips to Virginia. Alas, Thanh and Vinh, along with fellow fighters Carlos Vera and Evan Fremin, decided to temporarily relocate to Hall’s home state and help teach at his gym, Fifty/50 Martial Arts Academy.
“He’s coming to fight, but I’m there, and I like to fight too.”
While Thanh’s career took off – finishing his next four opponents in first and second-round knockouts – Vinh suffered a setback. He tore his labrum and required surgery to repair the damage to his shoulder. During his recovery, Vinh battled issues with weight gain that slowed his return to action.
“I was out in Virginia, training and living life, and I tore my labrum, so that had me out for a year. Then, I got fat after my surgery, and ate like a fat ass. I was still training, but not as much because of my shoulder. I got up to about 230, which is super fat for a 5’8 person. So, what took up the most time, was me losing the weight.”
Recovered and back on weight, Vinh returned to the New Orleans area hungry for his next fight. He will be taking on Jamal Peyton this Saturday, July 20th, at Bayou Fighting Championship 39. Although Vinh believes this will be his last amateur fight, he’s not overlooking his opponent for this weekend:
“I know that [Peyton] definitely comes to fight. If he’s in the ring, he’s there swinging and trying to take you down, he’s trying to hurt you for sure. He’s calm, but when it’s time to explode, he does it. He’s coming to fight, but I’m there, and I like to fight too.”
Vinh expects to turn pro after this fight, and he hopes to fight at least once more by year’s end. In the meanwhile, he’s working on developing a healthy diet to help him maintain a natural fighting weight without massive cuts.
“My biggest problem with fighting is my weight. Training is easy, I enjoy it. Fighting is easy, I enjoy it. But, eating healthy, the weight aspect, is what gets me. So, short term goals, are to maintain a steady weight of about 160-165, give or take. And, to figure out a system to where, you know, I’m not hard-core dieting year-round, figure out my body, how I can enjoy snacks, a cheat meal 1-2 times a week, and float at the weight I want to be at.”
Vinh “The Asian Cajun” Le is proudly following in his family’s footsteps – a family that has forever made its mark on martial arts on the Gulf Coast. As he reflected on the path that’s before him, Vinh concluded:
“[I want] to go the furthest that I could in this sport, whether that be the UFC, ONE FC, Bellator, Legacy, whatever. As long as a I tried my hardest and did the best that I could, didn’t slack, I’d be completely 100% happy. Even if I lose 100 times in my pro career, [as long as] I tried my hardest, did my best, did what I had to do, I’d be 100% happy.”
Vinh would like to thank the following for their loyalty and support: Moon College Taekwondo, Mid City MMA, Go Lay Down Apparel Co., and Smash and Glide Barber Shop.
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