Last June, he defeated previously-unbeaten titleholder Vitaly Bigdash to capture the ONE Middleweight World Championship, and became Myanmar’s first world champion in sporting history.
For his encore in November, he submitted four-time Muay Thai and kickboxing heavyweight world champion Alain “The Panther” Ngalani in the promotion’s first-ever Open Weight Super-Bout.
On Friday, 23 February, at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD, he can earn the distinction of being the organization’s second-ever dual world champion by besting Brazil’s Alexandre “Bebezao” Machado (8-2) to add the ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship to his collection.
In a matter of three years, Aung La N Sang has transformed into a Myanmar national hero who has given strength to his fellow compatriots. He only plans to continue inspiring the Southeast Asian country and continue defending its honor, as he details in this exclusive interview.
ONE Championship: Every time you are in Myanmar, the challenges get bigger and bigger. Most recently, it was heavyweight colossus Alain Ngalani. How did it feel to get that win at home?
Aung La N Sang: I thought it was a good match for me. I would not have taken the match if I thought I was not going to win, and in my mind, I thought I was going to win, and I prepared correctly for it. It feels good to get the win, and it feels good to show my fans and my supporters that I am able to compete at this elite level.
ONE: During that time, you also met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar. What was that like?
ALNS: It was pretty amazing. People do not usually get the opportunity to meet with the State Counsellor, so I am just grateful for the support of my fans and the support I get in my country. It has been a crazy ride so far.
ONE: How do you feel Myanmar has been developing over the past few decades, as a country?
ALNS: It is amazing. Myanmar has been on a standstill for the last 50 years, but the last few times I have been there it has been really developing. What is crazy is it is opening up. It is getting the good western influences, and it is good to see it open up and get the exposure it should be getting. Even now, a lot of people do not know where Myanmar is. But hopefully, in our lifetime, we can change that.
ONE: In what ways does Myanmar inspire you?
ALNS: The people really inspire me, and just the fact I am making a change for them, and knowing the fact that they need a sports hero to look up to [is fulfilling]. A lot of the kids are looking up to me. Also, I have a lot of adults who look up to me, so it is an honor. It inspires me, and it drives me even more to be better.
ONE: On your official Facebook page, there is a picture of you with a Burmese python. How did it come about?
ALNS: One of the magazine photographers had the idea of having me pose with a python. The snake was pretty cool. It had a strong grip. She was very friendly, and one of the Burmese people posted a comment [on my page], saying, “You should bring it over, I will cook it up for you. It is good with Hennessy,” or something like that.
ONE: Did you accept the offer?
ALNS: No. I cannot drink (laughs).
ONE: Since winning the ONE Middleweight World Title in June, you have not defended it yet. Does that bother you?
ALNS: A little bit. I would like to defend it, but it is ok. I have time. There is going to be more exciting matches, and I will be competing against more contenders. I am more than happy to defend my belt — more than happy to defend both of my belts [when I win the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title].
ONE: The stakes keep getting bigger for you. Now, you are stepping up a weight division to meet Alexandre Machado for the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title. What excites you about this challenge?
ALNS: We are both big guys, but this is definitely different. You have to approach the bigger opponents differently, and understand what people’s attributes are, and what their weaknesses are, too. You have to expose the weakness, and compete smart. This is a combat sport, so you have to strategize and game plan correctly, or else it could be a bad night.
It seems like I am always facing bigger guys, but bigger does not always mean stronger. I think it is an exciting match. I just really hope Machado brings it to me so we have an exciting match. As far as my team goes, I am actually down in Florida, working with Henry Hooft and the team at Hard Knox 365. I am away from my home gym, Crazy 88 Mixed Martial Arts, so I can get more sparring partners.
ONE: What do you view as Machado’s strengths?
ALNS: I think just the grappling. Grappling is the only way he is able to beat me, but I have many ways to beat him. If the opportunity permits, I may even look to submit him. But the only way he can beat me is by grappling.
ONE: Lastly, it seems like Aung La N Sang cannot lose in Yangon. The fans are so passionate for you, so is it an extra advantage competing at home?
ALNS: Well, I have excellent energy and a strong mindset. A pressure like that can bring you down, too. An inexperienced athlete may confuse that. I competed when the crowd was “pro-me,” and I have lost before, so you cannot get overly excited when you are working with that kind of crowd. You have to use it to intimidate your opponent. Yangon is a very “pro-me” environment, but you need to be careful with that as well.