Burmese Python announces his return
HE’S coming back. Aung La Nsang will travel home to the Golden Land on October 7 for a ONE Championship fight against Polish middleweight Michal Pasternak in Yangon’s Thuwunna Stadium. The winner of the fight is expected to compete for the ONE Championship middleweight title later this year.
But Aung La Nsang arrived a little early for a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw with former president Thein Sein. The former president was impressed by Aung La Nsang’s March 16 win in Yangon over Egyptian Muhammed Ali, the Kachin martial artist’s first fight on home soil in his 11-year MMA career., but the meeting fell through. Aung La Nsang will be back in Yangon today to announce the fight at a press conference at Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, but spent yesterday touring in the capital.
“The people of Myanmar are awesome MMA fans. Although MMA is a fairly new sport in Myanmar, it brings me fulfillment to see fans enjoy the sport back home,” Aung La Nsang said about the upcoming fight.
The Burmese Python – as he is known in the ring – will be making his return to Myanmar coming off a July win in Hefei over Russian Aleksei Butorin. Aung La Nsang, who stepped in after a training injury sidelined the scheduled ONE middleweight champion Vitaly Bigdash, and grasped the opportunity for another showing on the international stage, subduing the previously unbeaten Butorin with an arm triangle in the second round.
Submissions are his strong suit, and the inspiration behind the “Python” moniker. But Aung La N’Sang says he’s just as comfortable going for knockouts, and his record – nine wins by submission, seven by knockout – attests to both his strikes and his ground game.
The 31-year old fighter, who is currently at 210 pounds but will come down to 205 for the fight, will need all his strength to take on Pasternak, who will arrive with an 11-1 record. From Pinczow, Poland, the lanky 6-foot, 2-inch Pasternak also boasts equal success in striking and takedown fighting. Pasternak suffered his first loss in his last bout, however, the inaugural ONE Light Heavyweight World Championship against Brazilian jiu jitsu legend Roger Gracie.
“My last bout taught me a lot,” Pasternak said. “I am young and talented, and I will show the world why I deserve to be called one of the top middleweight contenders in ONE Championship. I know Aung is the hometown hero ... But I’m here to spoil the party.”
Aung La N’Sang was less gracious when informed of Pasternak’s previously undefeated record.
“He just had his first loss. He’s about to have his second.”
Since he last spoke with The Myanmar Times, Aung La Nsang has been training at his Crazy 88 gym in Baltimore, US. There he works with more than 200 students, ranging in age from three to 60, instructing in mixed martial arts.
He’s also been fighting through the challenges – and enjoying the successes – of being a new father. His son Aung De was born just 16 months ago, and Aung La N’Sang said he’s already teaching him some shadow boxing.
“Here’s your next fighter in about 18 years,” he said, smiling as he thumbed through photos on his smartphone.
Perhaps Myanmar’s most renowned fighter abroad, Aung La Nsang spent his first day back touring Nay Pyi Taw for the first time. His itinerary included visits to parliament, a Myanmar Red Cross Society training centre, and even an obligatory photo on an empty mega-highway.
It took some time getting reacquainted with his celebrity, though: He caused a minor frenzy at the Feel restaurant highway stop, with multiple selfie-seeking waiters and patrons approaching with cell phones in hand.
“It’s so weird, coming back,” he said. “It’s an honour, but I’m not used to it – it can be kinda awkward.”
Even if coming home to Myanmar can bring a certain level of uncomfortable visibility, there’s one place Aung La Nsang says he is most looking forward to getting back to: the ring.
Aung La Nsang met with Myanmar Red Cross Society volunteers at a civilian emergency first-responder training facility in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.