Aung La N Sang tests skills with Leandro Ataides in the co-main event of ONE: Battleground. This middleweight clash goes down on Friday, July 30th and ONE Championship puts on this show from Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The former two-division titlist within ONE Championship chatted with me ahead of this looming contest. I talked with the pride of Myanmar shortly after N Sang was celebrating the birthday of Gilbert Burns.
Excerpts from my recent conversation with Aung La N Sang can be found below.
Aung La N Sang
The timeline for learning of this upcoming ONE: Battleground contest
“I found out about four weeks ago. If they offer me a fight, I never turn down any fight. So I took the fight. They initially gave me a different opponent. But he didn’t have the COVID vaccine. And they gave me Leandro (Ataides) and I’m down for whoever. I just want to get back to work.”
Aung La N Sang’s previous fight being the sequel versus Reinier de Ridder at ONE on TNT IV
“Last fight just felt like a five-minute, five-round grappling match. So I just wanted to get back in there and get back to work. Put on great shows for the fans. Put on something fans like to watch.”
You had a quote a while ago where you were saying ‘winning gives you confidence, but losing gives you character’. Was there anything you took away from that last fight there with Reinier de Ridder?
“No, for sure, for sure. The grappling, the exchanges, I went back and watched it. My hand positioning, my body positioning was a little bit off. You learn and grow from your losses. I have a lot of losses in my career. After every loss, I become better. And I’m humble enough. I don’t have an ego. I can go back and look at it and grow from it.”
The Reinier de Ridder-Leandro Ataides connection
Leandro Ataides is training with Reinier de Ridder who is also a former opponent of his. What do you make of that training dynamic there if anything at all?
“I think it’s silly. It’s very silly. Because he almost beat Reinier (de Ridder). Reinier is a champion, why would you want to go (there)? I mean, it makes no sense to me. But it’s just like, you’re so close to the title. And you’re going to train with this guy again? Like it makes no sense to me, but good for him. Do what he wills. It’s not going to make a difference.”
Yeah, that is a fair point. Maybe he’s banking on the idea that RDR is going to try to contend for that heavyweight title and maybe things clear up at middleweight. But yeah, that is a curious sort of aspect.
“Yeah, makes no sense at all. But he can do him and I’ll do me. Logically speaking, if you’re a middleweight, wouldn’t you want to fight for the middleweight (belt)? It’s just weird in my opinion for both of them. But I’m coming after both of them, so it doesn’t matter.”
Can Aung La N Sang shock the world by submitting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Leandro Ataides at ONE: BATTLEGROUND? 🤯 @AungLANsang #ONEBattleground #WeAreONE #ONEChampionship pic.twitter.com/u7xh42NJGE
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) July 24, 2021
The importance of Sanford MMA gym culture to N Sang’s growth on several levels
“Yeah. It’s a very tight-knit, strong-bonded group of guys. That just wants to see teammates and training progress. Succeed and grow. Don’t get me wrong, every session like I’m mad at these guys for trying to mess me up. I’m sure they’re pissed at me for beating them up or whatever. But it’s a good dynamic we push each other every day. No drama just work hard. Try to grow and we have a great bond.”
“More than anything, we’re humans. We’re parents, we’re husbands, we’re friends, we’re teammates. But fighting is what we love and we’re blessed to be able to do what we love.”
The multiplicity of tragedies in Myanmar nowadays
“Yeah, it’s sad, man. The situation is sad and with the new variant of COVID, it’s been hard. It’s hit Myanmar hard. We don’t have the facility and the things to care for the patients… It’s weird times and it’s not good and we just have to be thankful that we live in the United States.”
The visceral, sad nature of the Phoe Thaw situation who was injured in a bomb blast
“It’s very, very unfortunate. I can’t explain the pain that Phoe Thaw goes through, you know. And Phoe Thaw is just like me. He had that same passion for MMA and wanted to represent Myanmar. And do something good for his life. It’s unfortunate.”
Sessions with a sports psychologist and Sanford camaraderie giving relief during these trying times
“For sure. And we have a good group of guys at Sanford (MMA) too. Nate Marquardt leads a little group. We do like Bible study. We talk to each other about our problems and such.”
The myriad of perspectives and people from different walks of life learning from each other at Sanford MMA
“And it also shows that we’re all human. We’re all human, we all have our own troubles and trials. And the things that make us wake up in the morning, go to work, and the things that drive us, it’s the same. We’re all the same human race.”
The sole focus being middleweight and wanting a Vitaly Bigdash rubber match at middleweight
“It’s all gonna be middleweight. Vitaly’s middleweight, too. So I hope we get to do it again. If not, it’s not a big deal. There are other bouts that excite me a lot as well. Listen, man. I’m always down. I’m always ready to sign the dotted line against anybody. So it’s not up to me. It’s up to the matchmakers in ONE Championship. They actually gave me a different opponent from Leandro (Ataides). And I already signed it, but he didn’t have the COVID vaccine.”
Individuals Aung La N Sang would like to test skills with inside the ONE Circle
“Right now, like the Welterweight Champion (Kiamrian Abbasov), you know he called me out. And we can do that. I know Yushin Okami wants a shot at me too. That was when I was a champion too. So all these guys that wanted to fight me when I was a champion, let’s go. Let’s do it now.”
Yeah, because I talked to Kiamrian Abbasov and I mentioned the idea of fighting you and he seemed to almost dismiss it in the response. He’s like, Oh, yeah, wait, he doesn’t have the belt anymore.
So the intrigue isn’t there as much and I found that kind of curious because I feel like he’d still want to test skills.
“It has to happen. If you said you’re gonna be waiting for me, come on. Let’s go. Whatever the ONE Championship matchmakers put in front of me, I will sign. I will go for it.”
In this upcoming foray into the ONE Circle…Is there a specific picture you want to paint when you’re out there?
“Yeah, an exciting finish. And I can’t tell you what it’s going to be. But something that excites the fans and wants people to keep watching ONE Championship. Keep watching me compete. There are certain game plans that my trainer and my coaches want to see improvement in. That’s what I’m going for. To be a better version of myself, to be a better and more complete fighter. To be the best fighter that I can be in this weight class.”
Parting thoughts for Aung La N Sang
“Just watch ONE Championship on July 30th. I will be the co-main event and it will be exciting. It will be on Friday morning. I think around 8 or 9 am eastern time. So check me out.”