When one is searching for the ultimate success story within the history of ONE Championship, few are a better subject than the “Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang. The current ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion has been with the organization since 2014, and he’s come into his own as a martial artist and champion.
Aung La would announce his arrival with ONE Championship in grand fashion. At ONE: Era of Champions in Jakarta, Indonesia, he needed just over a minute to score a TKO victory over Mahmoud Salama in his promotional debut.
Clearly, ONE saw something in Aung La to sign him, but who could have predicted he’d become a two-division champion and one of the greatest competitors in the organization’s history?
Perhaps not even Aung La would have guessed he’d be here.
Aung La’s wife, Katie Oliphant says, “people see the fame now, but for years, he [Aung La] was pushing really hard and making no money. But he continued to go through those steps each and every time. Along the way, I’d say ‘hey, we’re still not making ends meet.’ He’d say, I promise, things are going to get better in a year.”
Proving to be a man of his word, and someone with ultimate confidence in his own ability, Aung La N Sang persevered.
After a nearly two-year layoff, he’d score two more stoppage wins in a row over Mohamed Ali and Aleksei Butorin to establish himself as a legitimate contender for the middleweight title.
He needed one more victory to push him to a title shot, and he got it.
Aung La closed out 2016 with a unanimous-decision win over Michal Pasternak at ONE: State of Warriors in October 2016. The Burmese Python had finally proven himself to the ONE matchmakers and earned a shot at vaunted Russian champion Vitaly Bigdash.
The Russian was a perfect 8-0 in his professional career ahead of the scrap, and he’d won his title with a win over Igor Svirid via TKO at ONE: Tigers of Asia in October 2015. It had been more than a year since Bigdash competed when he faced Aung La for the title at ONE: Quest for Power in January 2017 in Indonesia.
The bout was a close, back-and-forth affair, but Bigdash earned the unanimous-decision win over the challenger. Aung La made such a good account of himself, he was awarded an immediate rematch, but this time, the bout would take place in his home country of Myanmar. In June 2017, at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION, Aung La illuminated the cage with another huge effort, only this time, he did enough to get the nod from the judges.
Aung La had accomplished his goal and became a world champion.
Since then, he has been on a tear. He shined in an open-weight challenge against the hulking Alain Ngalani at ONE: Hero’s Dream in November 2017 and choked out the Cameroonian-born, Hong Kong resident in the first round. This slight move up in weight only set the table for Aung La’s next big challenge. He was eyeing a second world title.
Aung La N Sang set his sights on winning the vacant light heavyweight belt, and Alexandre Machado was the man standing in the way of history. In February 2018 at ONE: Quest for Gold, Aung La needed just 56 seconds to TKO and finish Machado to add the ONE Light Heavyweight World Title to his mantle.
“The Burmese Python” made it clear, he wasn’t simply collecting titles so each could sit on the shelf.
“The fight finished in just 56 seconds but I trained eight weeks for this. I was trained and prepared to become the light heavyweight world champion. I’ll defend this belt against any challenger, and so will I with my middleweight belt,” he said after the fight.
True to his word again, Aung La would battle Japan’s Ken Hasegawa with his middleweight strap on the line in one of the year’s best bouts. Aung La retained the title with a crushing combination in the fifth round that knocked Hasegawa cold at ONE: Spirit of a Warrior.
As if winning a second title and going 3-0 in 2018 wasn’t enough, Aung La finished the year with another successful title defense against Mohammed Karaki in October 2018 at ONE: Pursuit of Greatness.
In total, Aung La finished the year with a 4-0 record and two world titles. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in any organization who had a more successful 2018.
Looking ahead to 2019, Aung La is already prepped for more memorable moments.
At the much-anticipated ONE: A New Era event in March, in the promotion’s first-ever event in Japan, Aung La will rematch Hasegawa in a follow-up scrap that takes place on the challenger’s home soil. That one could be amazing. If Aung La can win the rematch, be on the lookout for a potential third bout with Bigdash.
The Russian has made it clear he wants his title back, and the road to the gold might still run through Myanmar.
Will you be watching Aung La N Sang fight this March?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/6/2019.