Two-division ONE World Champion Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang engaged in one of the most epic battles in mixed martial arts history last year.
Now, the Myanmar sports icon is looking to replicate that dynamic performance with his old rival when ONE Championship holds its inaugural Japan event on Sunday, 31 March.
This time around, the two athletes are familiar with each other’s skill set, and “The Burmese Python” believes that will make their upcoming co-main event bout even more captivating.
“I’m sure he’s going to put 100 percent into a great training camp. I know he went to New York to train, so I’m sure he’s real focused. It’s going to make for an amazing match,” Aung La N Sang says.
“I respect Ken a lot. I know what he brings to the table, so I’m training my butt off, and I’m sure he is as well. [It will be] two people who have fought already, and who know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s going to be — in my opinion, knowing the two of us — another exciting match.”
This is a rematch from their main-event showdown at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR in June, which earned “Bout Of The Year” honors at the 2018 Global Martial Arts Awards.
It was a grueling back-and-forth encounter that tested the wills of both men. The two warriors threw everything in their arsenal, which ignited the capacity crowd inside the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
With less than two minutes left in the fifth round, Aung La N Sang finally knocked out his Japanese adversary with a short uppercut to retain his ONE Middleweight World Title in front of his hometown fans.
Despite securing the highlight-reel finish, “The Burmese Python” was highly critical of his performance and he is determined to be sharper in their rematch.
“There’s a lot of openings I missed,” he says.
“There’s a lot of movement that I made mistakes on. I’m going to show a much more improved, much cleaner competitor on 31 March. You’ll see some new moves that I’ve been working on. For this fight, there will be new exciting moves for the fans, for sure.”
While Aung La N Sang has added some new techniques to his skill set at Hard Knocks 365 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he also knows his 32-year-old rival has been tightening up his game, too.
Hasegawa traveled from Yokohama, Japan to Long Island, New York, USA, where he has worked under the guidance of Matt Serra and Ray Longo.
Those coaches are known for producing world-class martial artists and refining their skills, and that has motivated “The Burmese Python” to deliver an even stronger performance.
“I’m sure he’s going to bring a new dimension of him, and that’s great,” the ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion says.
“As excited as I am right now, I’m laser-focused on this fight. I plan on making a statement that I’m there because I bring excitement to the fans and I bring what the fans want to see.”
The rematch will also be the first time in nearly two years where Aung La N Sang competes outside of his native Myanmar.
As much as he loves competing in his home country, the two-division ONE World Champion admits there is always extra responsibility when he battles inside the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium.
“Being on the Myanmar card, as fun and as exciting as it is, there’s a lot of pressure from the fans and there is extra work that I have to do,” he explains.
“Now, I get to fight in Japan, so it’s pretty cool. Also, Japan is the country where martial arts began, so it’s an honor for me. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, so it’s like a dream come true.”
However, he does not expect to be in the cage for too long in Tokyo. “I think it’s going to end a lot quicker [than the last time],” he says, confidently.
“I’m ready to sign on the dotted line,” the Myanmar icon says.
“I’m here to become a better mixed martial artist all around. There are things that I need to improve on, but that fight excites me. I’ve been a fan of Brandon Vera and it’s one of those match-ups that really excites me. I’m down to fight anybody.
“Right now, I’m focused on just training and improving, and I just want to test myself with anybody.”