ONE's Aung La N Sang unbothered by lack of fame in the West
“The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang is the ONE middleweight and light heavyweight world champion, the 2018 Fighters Only World MMA Awards International Fighter of the Year, and Myanmar’s foremost sports hero, akin to Manny Pacquiao in the Philipines. While he's lauded everywhere by the hardcore MMA fanbase, there is very little awareness among casual fans in the West.
And it doesn't matter a bit to him.
“I respect everybody, and if people don’t respect me, it doesn’t bother me,” said N Sang to John Morgan for MMA Junkie. “Obviously, the Western media is not going to cover ONE Championship as much. The fact that I’ve been fighting mostly in Asia doesn’t help, either. But skillwise, I know where I’m at. I’m in the room at Hard Knocks 365. I know what I’m capable of, and I train with Kamaru Usman and the best guys in the world, so it’s not a big deal for me.”
N Sang relocated to the USA to attend college, and began his pro career not long after. He fought for ROC, CFFC, KOTC, and Bellator, before coming to ONE where he has a near perfect record (he lost to Vitaly Bigdash, but won an immediate rematch, and is now on a six-fight win streak).
“After I lost to Uriah Hall and all that, I started focusing on my boxing,” said N Sang. “I was always on the verge. I won in Bellator. I knocked the guy out, and I said, ‘I hope you guys bring me back.’ They never did. It was a shame, but I think through your losses, through your trials, and through all these hardships, you learn to become tougher and improve, or you just die out. For me, I kept going, and I believed in myself. I also worked with a sports psychologist. That really helped. So when I compete now, I’m a better performer than I used to be. It just takes time, and eventually it happened at the right time. ONE Championship happened to me at the right time of my life.”
ONE is coming to America, and in the mean time. ONE heavyweight champ Brandon Vera is dropping to light heavyweight to challenge for one of N Sang's belts.
“I believe in ONE Championship, and I believe that they do it differently from other promotions,” said N Sang said. “They want to mainstream martial arts in a different approach than other organizations do like the UFC. They’re about martial arts. They’re about respect, and they’re more about uplifting human values than selling fights. And with that core, as a father and a family man, it’s something that I can live with, and it’s something that I don’t mind my son watching and consuming that product."