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Few athletes in MMA receive the sort of ovation reserved for Aung La N Sang when he competes in Yangon, Myanmar.

The ONE middleweight and light heavyweight champion is one of the biggest stars on the ONE Championship roster, and nowhere is he more popular than in the country of his birth, where his fights generate the sort of fervent fan support rarely seen in the MMA world.

“The Burmese Python” (26-10) lives and trains in South Florida, but his roots are back home in Myanmar, and the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon has played host to some of his greatest moments.

But, while he clearly seems to save his biggest and best performances for Yangon, the Myitkyina-born 34-year-old said the expectation weighs heavy every time he prepares to step into the cage on home soil.

“It’s crazy, man,” he told MMA Junkie. “You’ve really gotta be mentally strong for that. When you’re in your locker room people want to take pictures with you – even the security people want to take pictures with you! Everybody expects you to win (and) everybody wants you to win. Even the medical staff wants you to win – all these Burmese medical staff, all the staff there, everybody at the show wants you to win, so it’s a lot of pressure.”

N Sang’s walkouts in Yangon encapsulate his status in Myanmar perfectly, as the 10,000-strong crowd inside the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium rises as one, wavse their glow sticks and sings along heartily to his walkout song, Burmese rock artist Lay Phyu’s “A Mae Lite A Ka.”

N Sang says it’s like being in the middle of a movie.

“It is crazy – it’s like a scene from Mad Max,” he grinned. “When all the people are in the arena, everybody wants you to win, they’re cheering, they’ve got those glow sticks and they’re going crazy – it’s pretty epic. The seats are filled from the bottom to the top. Every seat is filled. It’s filled to the brim and it’s really crazy and loud. But you have to be able to go in there and perform.”

Going in there and performing is something “The Burmese Python” has done consistently on home soil throughout his career. N Sang has fought seven times in Yangon and has never been beaten there. He captured both the middleweight and light heavyweight titles in the city’s atmospheric arena and has thrilled the crowds with some of the most memorable performances in ONE history, including his 2018 Fight of the Year contender with Ken Hasegawa at “ONE Championship 75: Spirit of a Warrior.”

But, following an early career that produced a somewhat mixed 16-9 record prior to his arrival in ONE Championship in 2012, N Sang made some key changes over the course of the last eight years to elevate his game, and his career, to new levels as he switched up his training camp from Baltimore to Hard Knocks 365. But as well as his visible technical improvements, he also attributes his ability to deliver on the big stage to a sharper mental approach, which he also took time to address earlier in his career.

“You’ve got to be really mentally strong and mentally focused to be able to be able to perform to the best of your ability,” he explained. “For me, I’ve had a lot of previous losses and I’ve worked with a sports psychologist, and it’s really helped me out to be able to detach myself from that – everybody’s expectation – and then just going out, performing and doing my best.”



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