After spending the past year moving up in weight to take on unprecedented martial arts challenges, two-division ONE World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang (22-10, 1 NC) will return to his natural weight class to defend his title for the first time.
On Friday, 29 June, the Myanmar sports hero will return home to Yangon’s Thuwunna Indoor Stadium, where he will defend the ONE Middleweight World Championship against top-ranked Japanese contender Ken Hasegawa (16-2-1) at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR.
Aung La N Sang defeated previously-unbeaten titleholder Vitaly Bigdash for the gold back in June 2017. The five-round contest was declared the “Bout Of The Year 2017.”
The 33-year-old followed that by submitting Alain “The Panther” Ngalani in the promotion’s first-ever Open Weight Super-Bout, and then claimed the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title by knocking out Alexandre Machado in a record-setting 56 seconds.
However, “The Burmese Python” believes his best performance is yet to come. In this exclusive interview, he talks in depth about his training, his opponent, and his thoughts on the division.
ONE Championship: For the past several weeks, you have been training at Hard Knocks 365 in South Florida. In what ways has the coaching there made you better?
Aung La N Sang: I feel like my overall mixed martial arts game is better, I feel like my wrestling is getting better, and I implement my ground and pound better, because we drill it a lot.
I have been sharpening my strengths and been getting more in sync with my coaches. And, when you are surrounded by very high-level athletes, you become more professional.
ONE: What did you think about Leandro Ataides knocking out your old rival Vitaly Bigdash at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY?
ALNS: It was good. Bigdash did not fight like he usually does. He fought a little bit timid, so good for Ataides.
I think it is hard when you lose a fight. When you have never lost a fight, and then you lose [for the first time], it makes you second-guess and think twice about certain things. He was tentative during the fight, at least that is what I saw from the outside. But Ataides went out there, he implemented his game, and got the finish.
ONE: Instead of Ataides, or Bigdash, you will be defending your ONE Middleweight World Title against DEEP Openweight Champion Ken Hasegawa at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR. Was this a surprise?
ALNS: It is not a surprise at all. If it were Bigdash, I do not think he would have taken the fight against me in Myanmar.
Opponents change all the time, so for me, it is not a surprise. I am just very happy to have a dance partner on 29 June.
ONE: What do you know about Hasegawa?
ALNS: He is ranked number one in Japan, as far as the middleweights go, and he is ranked number one for a reason. He is a DEEP Champion, and he has both knockout and submission wins.
It should be a very exciting fight. He has 16 wins and two losses, and fought as heavy as heavyweight. He is a dangerous opponent, and you cannot look past that.
ONE: What excites you most about the match?
ALNS: I get to defend my middleweight world title and I get to do it in front of my hometown crowd.
I believe I have improved so much since training full-time in Florida — just being surrounded by other professionals and other top-level fighters. I am excited to showcase my improvement.
ONE: This will be the first time you defend the ONE Middleweight World Title since winning it in June 2017. What does that mean to you?
ALNS: Defending the title legitimizes me as the world champion. It was not a fluke, and it is something I want to prove to the world.
I want to prove that I have worked so hard towards this, and I have just scratched the surface of what I am capable of. I am in the best period of my career, and I am going got put on better and better performances whenever I compete.
ONE: Do you feel like you are approaching the prime of your career?
ALNS: I feel like I am approaching my prime, because I am starting to learn a lot of things that would have helped me a lot when I was fighting earlier on, and I am learning how to be more professional as a fighter.
I do not have another job, I do not coach on the side, and I do not teach classes on the side. This is all I do now. I am 100 percent committed to competing as a mixed martial artist.
ONE: You have spent so much time training in Florida – away from your wife and son in Maryland. How difficult is that for you?
ALNS: It keeps me motivated. It is a motivation to make sure I have good a work ethic when it comes to training, and to understand the sacrifice is for the betterment of my family. It will all be worth it in the end.
Yangon | 29 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast