Just who is Aung La N Sang? A quick Google search will tell you he is 34-years-old, nicknamed “The Burmese Python,” and the reigning ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion.
His most recent bout, in October against Brandon Vera, saw the Sanford MMA-trained athlete win a thrilling match with a second-round TKO to retain the ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship in the main event of ONE’s biggest event to date.
But there is undoubtedly more about Aung La and his journey toward the top in ONE Championship to be said. Thus, let’s take a trip back to find out how the Burmese star was able to make it to the top and become the face of ONE Championship.
A Midwestern Beginning
While Aung La was born and raised in Myanmar, he came to the United States in 2003 to attend Andrews University in Michigan, where he studied agriculture. Along with his mother and siblings, Aung La was granted asylum (h/t The New York Times).
How did a kid from Myanmar, studying in Berrian Springs, Michigan, discover the sport? A friendship in university. His friend took him to a Carlson Gracie-affiliate gym in South Bend, Indiana, to train jiu-jitsu. The seed was planted, and the passion for mixed martial arts grew.
Aung La turned pro in May of 2005 but lost his first-ever bout by TKO (doctor stoppage). He would not return to active competition for almost a year, but when he returned, Aung La began to show not only his immense power but how much he had progressed as an all-around martial artist.
“The Burmese Python” reeled off five consecutive victories.
Over the next five years, Aung La saw ebbs and flows with his performances, but was continuing to develop his skill set. In 2012, the Sanford MMA standout made his Bellator debut with a 36-second TKO over Jesus Martinez.
After a stint in Cage Fury Fighting Championships, Aung La signed with ONE Championship and began fighting outside of North America for the first time. The community of fans in Myanmar rallied around the talented athlete, and he quickly became a hero in his homeland.
Aung La N Sang is the Face of ONE
Aung La had an impactful debut against Mahmoud Salama at ONE: ERA OF CHAMPIONS. He won by knockout in just 67 seconds. He followed the performance up at ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS in Myanmar by submitting Mohamed Ali.
After two more victories, “The Burmese Python” got his first crack at a World Championship against the middleweight champion, Vitaly Bigdash. And although he came up short on the scorecards, because he came in on two weeks’ notice and performed admirably, it led to an immediate rematch where he would get his hand raised to claim the middleweight title on June 30, 2017.
An opportunity to become a dual-champion presented itself in February of 2018 in Myanmar. Aung La made history with an emphatic first-round TKO over Alexandre Machado to collect the ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship. The two-division World Champion would deepen his legacy in the organization in his next outing with his first middleweight title defense.
At ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR, he met Ken Hasegawa. The wild bout went back-and-forth with each man scoring big offense. It remains one of the all-time greatest bouts in ONE Championship history, and as if compelled by the name of the event, Aung La got a fifth-round TKO to show his warrior spirit.
As his status grew, so did his fanbase. “The Burmese Python” rose through the pack to become one of the most popular athletes on the roster and a national hero in Myanmar. And showing he would never back away from a challenge, after defeating Hasegawa in a rematch in March of 2019, Aung La accepted the challenge from Brandon Vera, the current ONE Heavyweight Champion, to a meeting for his light heavyweight crown.
At their biggest event to date, ONE: CENTURY, he finished the heavyweight champion in the second round by TKO.
As confetti fell, Aung La stood tall as the signature face of the promotion with two World Championships.
Aung La N Sang Charity Work
But what you should know about Aung La extends beyond his abilities inside the ONE Circle.
Although he lives and trains in the United States, becoming a citizen in 2015, the Sanford MMA product never forgot his roots in Myanmar. His championship victories are not the only reason he is beloved in his homeland. He has gone back to give back to his community and help the youth along their own paths.
Aung La made the trip in March of 2016 to promote better education in Myanmar alongside Rich Franklin (h/t Yangon Life). He has kept up with his education plans for the youth, and the two-division champion also imparts martial arts knowledge in Myanmar.
He has also worked with the World Wildlife Fund to help save endangered animals in his home nation. The benevolence of Aung La has inspired many, and he continues to show by his actions that he wants to be more than an athlete and champion. He leads by example.
Aung La is a champion in and out of the ring, but inside of the ring, he has a target on his back and challengers lining up to try and take his crown. Next up will be Bigdash as they look to complete their middleweight trilogy on April 10 in Jakarta, Indonesia.