Aung La Nsang has never lost a fight in Yangon. It’s the city he grew up in, went to school in, and eventually established himself as a two-division ONE Championship titleholder.
The phrase “living the dream” is overused. But what other words can you use to discuss the story of a fighter who is now selling out a stadium that he used to walk past on his way to school every day?
This is the Aung La Nsang story. He might have picked up his fighting skills in the United States, but the 33-year-old is Yangon born and bred.
“I used to live a few blocks from the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium. I would actually walk or jog over there. There were not many gyms around at the time, so I went because they had a weightlifting place. I got a membership there and worked out.”
La Nsang has now headlined five events in the stadium and he’s never tasted defeat. He’s gone from being a regular punter to becoming a major attraction, and says it still takes a bit of getting used to.
“A lot of old feelings came back (when I fought in Thuwunna Indoor Stadium the first time). It was very nostalgic. The stadium was a lot smaller than I had imagined. When I was a kid, I thought it was humongous.”
That probably reflects the fact that, while the stadium itself has remained more or less the same, La Nsang himself has done a lot of growing up. This Friday night (local time) he will be making the first defense of his ONE Championship middleweight belt against Ken Hasegawa.
It’s a big challenge for La Nsang, who has a lot of respect for his ONE: Spirit of a Warrior adversary.
“Ken is a tough fighter. He has good Judo, good takedown skills, he can take punishment, and he can impose his game plan. The difficulty of fighting a guy like him is his awkwardness; Japanese fighters have awkward stances.”
While La Nsang is expecting Hasagewa to pose him some problems, he is confident they won’t prove insurmountable.
“There is nothing Ken can do that I have not seen in training, and I am going to be able to deal with everything he throws at me. I am feeling confident, and I am ready to put on a good show,” he said.
Anyone who has been cageside for one of La Nsang’s recent fights will tell you that there is something special in the air. The atmosphere at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium is electric, and the two-division ONE Championship titleholder just seems to have timed his rise perfectly.
TRENDING > Al Iaquinta Out; Justin Gaethje Awaits New Opponent for UFC Fight Night in Nebraska
In a country crying out for a sporting hero who can compete on the global stage, La Nsang is the perfect fit. He gets incredible support, but with it comes a level of expectation that some fighters would struggle to deal with.
Fortunately, La Nsang is built from sturdier stuff and feeds off the energy and excitement.
“Myanmar people have always had a big passion for combat sports, and having one of their own compete at such a high level excites them and makes them happy. The Thuwunna Indoor Stadium becomes electric; it is such a lively place and has a lot of energy.”
That electricity seems to infuse La Nsang, while disrupting the rhythm of his opponents. Hasegawa might well be the best fighter he has faced so far, but the Yangon native knows he will have an entire nation behind him as he prepares to defend his middleweight belt at ONE: Spirit of a Warrior.
Corner to Corner Preview: Aung La Nsang vs. Ken Hasegawa
(Courtesy of ONE Championship)