Interview: Amid strife back home, ONE’s Aung La Nsang focuses on title defense

ONE Championship’s light heavyweight champion Aung La Nsang struggles to turn away from the news while a military-backed coup takes place in his home country of Myanmar. Protests and violence persist in the country after the military seized power in February.

La Nsang wakes to messages from family members and close friends daily. His Instagram highlights family members who were jailed or harmed. It’s made training for his light heavyweight title defense against Vitaly Bigdash on April 28 in the ONE on TNT 4 event particularly difficult.

The Sanford MMA product spoke with Fight Night Picks’ John Hyon Ko about overcoming the mental toll of Myanmar’s strife, his rubber match with Bigdash and the state of the promotion in a 20-minute interview.

“They see me as a hero,” La Nsang said of his loved ones back home. “But I’m just a regular man with a family, who is a professional fighter by trade. I can’t fight the military.”

La Nsang has often struggled with internalizing hateful messages he receives online. Those only increased the past few months. A month ago, though, Sanford MMA brought in a sports psychologist. The new approach has helped La Nsang tremendously, he said.

“I would read people’s comments and it would bug me and hurt me. In training, I couldn’t really focus,” La Nsang said. “I had to set a time for it and go on with my life. My life being a father, being a husband, being a professional fighter and being in camp for the biggest fight of my career.”

Now, La Nsang will wake up, read the news and messages from Myanmar, make a social media post if he’s inclined and then turn his focus to his family and his fight.

The fight is an important one for La Nsang, who lost his last bout in a middleweight championship fight against Reiner de Ridder in October. La Nsang (26-11) will face Vitaly Bigdash (10-2) on April 28 in Singapore. The two fought twice in 2017. Bigdash won by decision the first time; La Nsang won the rematch by decision.

“Bigdash made me who I am today; he’s the reason I moved down to Florida,” La Nsang said. “If you see my last three years, it has catapulted me. The reason being was Vitaly Bigdash.”

Bigdash hasn’t fought since 2018 and has only two fights since losing to La Nsang. The Myanmar fighter, on the other hand, has gone 6-1 in that same timeframe. La Nsang has worked hard on improving his wrestling, something he felt was a weakness in their previous bouts.

This time, La Nsang is looking for a finish.

“I want to put the nail in the coffin,” La Nsang said. “I want to do it in a way he never wants to fight me again.”

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