In Person

Aung La ‘Burmese Python’ Nsang Set for Myanmar Showdown

By Lorcan Lovett 28 June 2017

Mixed martial artist Aung La “The Burmese Python” Nsang has returned from the US to his home country, Myanmar, in order to prepare for arguably the biggest fight of his career.

The 32-year-old Kachin fighter will battle middleweight champion Vitaly Bigdash for his ONE Championship belt in Yangon’s Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on June 30.

Born in Kachin State capital Myitkyina, Aung La moved south to attend Yangon International School before heading to Michigan, in the US, in his late teens, when a friend introduced him to mixed martial arts (MMA).

His impressive rise in the sport rolled into a four-fight win streak, which Bigdash stopped—along with Aung La’s first shot at a ONE world title—in a cage fight in January. Now the pair meet again, but with a home crowd behind him, the “Burmese Python” is more confident of a victory than ever.

As the father of a two-year-old son, how has newfound parenthood affected your fight game?

It makes you want to be more dedicated and more professional. It makes you more focused. You are not just doing it for your own wellbeing but you’re also doing it for your son’s livelihood and future. It puts more fire in you. It’s made me a better fighter, for sure.

 Who are your idols in MMA?

I watch a lot of fights and competitors. I don’t idolize them, but I just take notes and pointers from different fighters. I respect Lyoto Machida for his timing, and the older guys like Robbie Lawler because of their heart. I also met Robbie Lawler in one of my fights. He’s a good person. Most of the MMA fighters and champions are good people. It takes a certain character to be able to stick with a sport like this, still love it, and continue to grow with it. Most of the guys that fight MMA are pretty decent people.

Do you have a dream opponent?

I would like to fight [Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight] Uriah Hall. I fought him when I was a little younger, but I would like to fight him again. We will see.

What’s your best attribute in the cage?

My toughness, my never-quit attitude. I have a good finishing rate when I fight because I have a good sense of when the finish is coming, and when I feel like the finish is coming, I go for it.

Do you have an age in mind when you will retire?

When my passion and fire for fighting has gone and my body starts slowing down. We don’t know yet—maybe late 30s. But right now, I feel stronger and faster than I have ever been. My mind is sharper and my technique is getting better.

This is just the beginning for me. I know our age is a lot higher compared to lethwei fighters, but it takes a lot more time to develop the skills because MMA is all martial arts. I feel like I’m in my prime. I can’t think that I’m going to stop right now. I just turned 32 a month ago—it’s not young. I’m toward the end of my career, but I’m not going to say when I’m going to retire because there is a lot more fight left in me.

Have you considered joining the likes of boxers Manny Pacquiao and Vitali Klitschko by going into politics in your home country after fighting?

Probably not, because I’m not a politician: it’s not my art or my craft. Why try to do something that you’re not good at? Everybody has political duties but that’s not my calling. It’s better to follow what your calling is because that’s where you won’t feel burnt out.

As a politician, it’s important to give everything you have. Just like an MMA fighter, you have to be able to put everything into it. Like, Manny Pacquiao, he has an interest in politics. If you have passion, it’s okay to pursue it. On my side, politics gives me a headache sometimes.

 Your opponent Bigdash cost you an opportunity to win the title and broke your four-fight win streak.  How has that motivated you for this rematch?

It takes me to the next level. I spent a lot of resources for this fight, making sure I have a good dietician and sparring partners. I took time off teaching classes and the business side of the gym because I know the level of fighter Bigdash is.

This fight has elevated my game and me as a fighter. Because of the training I went through and the fight I had with him, I’ll be able to fight better. I’m excited because the last fight I wasn’t in shape for a five rounder. The fight was against myself but this fight it’s all going to be against him.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Physically, he’s very strong. He has very good kicks and takedowns. He’s a well-rounded fighter. As far as the weakness goes, I think I can capitalize on my boxing.

Will you get the knock out?

That’s what I plan to do. I’m looking to finish him—second, third round. I will look for the finish; I don’t care if I die. I will look for the finish. It’s going to be an exciting fight.

Do you have a message for your fans in Myanmar?

Thank you for all the support and love that you have shown me. It’s very undeserving and more than I could have ever imagined. It’s an honor for me to represent my people. I just want to encourage everybody to pursue your dreams and work hard toward your passion.