Dave Leduc on Cyrus Washington rematch, the rise of Lethwei, and more

Dave Leduc
Dave Leduc Credit: Twitter

Dave Leduc and Cyrus Washington are going at it on Saturday, November 7 for the second time. This WLC bout will see the King of Lethwei defending the open weight title under traditional rules. Dave Leduc vs Cyrus Washington II can be ordered at leducwashington.com.

Below are several excerpts from our conversation with Dave Leduc ahead of this high stakes rematch. The full interview is available below.

Leduc vs Washington II

How excited are you to be able to bring the full-on traditional rules to, like a domestic audience that maybe hasn’t seen Lethwei before?

“Yeah, good question. So, basically, people still have questions about the sport. So it’s a very, very old, ancient martial art about over 2000 years old and it’s booming right now. It’s exciting and people are messaging me every day with questions about traditional rules, what’s the difference between the WLC rules?”

“I’m fine with the WLC; it’s the promotion in Myanmar, was planning to responding to do events, everywhere, but with the whole situation with the COVID. They had to put a halt on this, and I’m still exclusively signed with them. And that’s the thing. So, because of the travel restrictions. I was legally allowed to go fight anywhere else around the world during that time. So it’s kind of a big coincidence that because I hold the WLC championship and traditional rules championship in Myanmar. And basically, for those who don’t know the difference of the rules.”

Dave Leduc

“Traditional lethwei rules, it’s everything allowed, basically. Headbutts allowed, no gloves, KO to win that’s the big difference. Meaning that if there is no knockout at the end of the fight, and five rounds, the fight will be scored a draw. So it doesn’t matter if you bloody or dominate your opponent.”

“It doesn’t matter if the two men are standing. It’s going to be a draw and that’s very exciting for people. Because there’s no biased decision like we see sometimes in MMA… Well, that’s just like last men standing, and I did most of my fights like this, and I did my last fight in 2019 in the WLC rule set which is tournament rule set.”

Leduc’s initial bout with Cyrus Washington

“We fought, me and Cyrus in 2017, in Myanmar. And I was still a fairly new champion. I had around 20-25 fights and he had over a hundred, a hundred and ten. He was very experienced but I hurt him early with a knee in the clinch and I like lacerated his face.”

“And after that he was like avoiding engagement to avoid further damage. And, he’s been saying since like ‘Oh man, I know how to beat you, it’s just you got lucky with that knee and stuff like that and I studied you and I know how to beat you. I’m like really? They all say that.”

“You know you can say all you want but when we’re standing in the cage, in the ring. Well, it’s a different story and me ever since that fight. I’ve been extremely pissed and critical of myself, because of the way I was not controlling the ring. He was running away from me, and I was not cutting the ring.”

The King of Lethwei

“I wanted to, I can swear?, I wanted to fucking knock him out, and he ended up surviving the entire five rounds so it ended up as a draw…It’s a draw but like was untouched like I really pissed. I want to knock him out.  I want to make a statement for this because people don’t know the entire story about this. We’re talking you know Myanmar is 55 million people there, and it’s like a religion. It’s like hockey for Canadians. It’s a big deal.”

“So if you’re the only two foreigners. That made an impact in Lethwei is me and Cyrus, having stopped Toon Toon Min who is a knockout artists like crazy and I fought him three times. Cyrus fought him three times as well. This fight is for my legacy because I want to  be remembered as the best known Burmese lethwei fighter in history and  like Cyrus is the only thing, like it’s the only like Asterix in there.”

Hoping for domestic Lethwei growth with this card being in Wyoming

“Well said, Yes, absolutely. I think it’s all the stars are aligned for massive growth with WLC. I basically worked with them to get in on UFC Fight Pass. So that was a big move for lethwei. It was like very cool to have a very old martial art on a modern platform, it’s kind of ironic. It was kind of cool to live that. If you look at this right now what’s happening in the lethwei world right now. There’s an amateur World Championship happening in Poland next year in Warsaw,. Which like all the teams around the world are building national teams to be able to compete.”

“I have an affiliated school in Iceland, one in California, New York and Austin, Texas. It’s booming right now, but after the fight. It could not happen in a bit better timing. Because, like everybody’s bored at home. In Canada, like everybody’s confined and so it’s like going to be all eyes on this. Because I think not a lot of other promotions are making fights right now, so that’s cool.”

Dave Leduc vs Cyrus Washington: the sequel

“But as for like, what’s going to do on Lethwei, this is the first lethwei world title fight on US soil. So the sky’s the limit. After that, yes, I think it’s going to grow.  I think it’s a bold move from sparta promotions to hold that fight. But it’s also high risk, high reward. And you know it’s expensive but they’re gonna be remembered as the promotion that was the first one to host a lethwei world title fight on US soil. So it’s pretty fucking exciting.”

This bout being outside of WLC and the Act of God clause in his contract

“Exactly. They’re supposed to give me a certain amount of fights per year. And I’m supposed to fight a fair amount of fights per year. But because they can’t fly me to Myanmar. They can’t fly my opponents to Myanmar, or anywhere. It’s just a mess right now. So it’s just like an understanding that I’m able to fight but obviously I’m not defending the WLC title. I’m defending my traditional title which I still hold. So I’m very happy.”

“I would not be able to defend it and that’s something I hold dear in my heart. This title, The Golden belt we call it. There’s only one golden belt. It’s not like you know in MMA there’s like different promotions. In traditional lethwei there’s one golden belt for each weight categories. The open weight which is supposed to accept challenges from everybody like I’m 175 pounds.”

“And I fought guys 200 something pounds like I have to but otherwise I’m gonna get stripped. It’s just hard. A lot of guys say I want to fight but when it’s time to sign the dotted lines and you see the ruleset with the KO to win, the headbutts everything… I don’t hear about them anymore. So it’s definitely a massive important step for the history of lethwei. Traditional lethwei rules in a cage too by the way. That’s going to change a lot fo things in the clinch I think.”

The stylistic adjustments of doing lethwei in a cage for this one. The second time lethwei has happened in a cage since a 2008 Austrian lethwei bout.

“I’m training a lot. I’m training a lot in Canada right now because I’m kind of stuck here. I went here to buy property, and we got stuck in Canada. But that’s where my coach from day one is. And, you know, we have a cage at the gym. My training partners are from TKO or UFC. So I end up training with them, helping them for their fights, as well. But now we’re training for my fight in the cage. I train my ground all the time. So I’m training MMA all the time. This is my first love. Yeah, I think it’s going to change a lot”

“I think it’s gonna change a lot the inside game. Because I fought a lot of guys and when I was getting the best of them in the ring, they were bending over the ropes. They were bending from the back. They were hiding. It’s very malleable, the ring. While in the cage, once you’re pinned to the cage the headbutts are gonna fly. There’s no recoil. You’re stuck there. So I think it’s gonna be very exciting.”

Some intriguing contractual nuances for this Washington rematch

“There’s a clause in the contract that if after five rounds, there’s no knockout, we can go two extra rounds. That’s like old school. We call that lethwei extreme. That like never happens. It has happened a couple of times in the history of lethwei like. You can go like seven rounds bare-knuckle.”

Too Too and Toon Toon Min fights

“I was very surprised but you know for people to understand like I’ve traveled all around the world and Myanmar people, the Burmese people are some of the kindest, most humble. Genuine people, it’s crazy they’re so kind and, and they’re very accepting of everybody…I was actually afraid when I came in my first lethwei fight, I fought Too Too. He was the undefeated 36-0 in lethwei, 75 kg champion like 170-165 pounds, and I dominated him. At first they were a bit like who the fuck is that guy? It was a bit of booing.”

“And then I challenged Toon Toon Min, who is the openweight champion. Then we fought two times. And I won the belt from him. But I quickly quickly realized that I wasn’t there to just take the belt and leave. Go back to Canada…The reason why I really felt compelled to stay there and live there. I still have a place there when I come, but the reason why I live there is it’s very simple.”

“Because in Canada we used to be a people braving cold winters and very, very strong. ..That’s what I saw in Myanmar and I really relate to them and I said they’re super kind. But then when they’re in the ring. Well they’re fucking brutal and they’re the inventor of lethwei. So I was like, it’s contrast and I’m a guy of contrast as well. This is my people and I joke often in interviews in Burmese I’m like, if there’s such thing as another life. I was probably born in Myanmar.”

Lethwei and/ or MMA in ONE Championship

“I’m not sure because obviously with WLC, I want to defend my title. I want to fight lethwei. If ONE FC, not sure if they want to do lethwei one day, there has been talks for sure… My position is a bit different. To be honest, I would actually be excited to go fight MMA in ONE. To go back to it one day.”

“So that’s something I am still sour about. Because I was very young and very inexperienced when I accepted big challenges at the time. So I still want to avenge my MMA loss. But yeah, I think for lethwei… the next step would be defending my WLC belt. I speak with Chatri (Sityodtong) often, and we get along very well and he loves lethwei”

“They (ONE) actually had two lethwei fights as the showcase. They were showcasing lethwei in Myanmar. So they actually had two fights under ONE Championship under the radar.”

Parting thoughts for Dave Leduc

“I’m very critical of my last performance against him. I rewatched the fight and I could have finished him. I didn’t and now in the history book it’s gonna be the first fight was a draw. But I wanted the history book, the next one is going to be a knockout for me. I have a game plan that I planned with my Sifu (Patrick Marcil), and we’re ready.”

“I’m very confident. And I know he’s confident too. He thinks he has the tools to beat me. I want him at his best. He said he’s feeling stronger than ever. Perfect.”


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