ONE Championship: Aung La N Sang plots ‘climb back up to the top’ starting with Yushin Okami
- Former two-division champion will look to start another title run against Okami at ONE 163 on November 19 in Singapore.
- ‘Burmese Python’ feels Japanese veteran is not a good match-up stylistically but vows to show a ‘new version’ of himself
Aung La N Sang’s South Florida home is full of ONE Championship title belts, but he is still not satisfied with his collection.
The Burmese-American, 37, is one of the promotion’s most accomplished champions, having formerly held its middleweight and light heavyweight MMA titles and defended both.
He ultimately lost both to unbeaten Dutchman Reinier de Ridder, but is optimistic that another title win is within reach.
“I do believe I still have a run in me,” N Sang told the Post. “I want to climb back up to the top.”
N Sang (27-13) lost his titles to De Ridder in back-to-back fights, first surrendering the middleweight belt via first-round submission, then losing a light heavyweight title fight by decision.
He has had mixed results in his two fights since, first knocking out Leandro Ataides, then losing a decision to his long-time rival Vitaly Bigdash.
Now 2-3 in his last five, the former champion will look to begin his march back to title contention at ONE 163 on November 19 in Singapore, when he takes on Japan’s Yushin Okami. It is a fight both men had been requesting for months, but was only revealed in October.
“He’s the one that called me out first, and it’s a fight that I would love to have,” N Sang said of the 41-year-old Japanese star, who is a veteran of 21 fights in the UFC.
“He’s someone that I’ve looked up to and watched. For me to compete against him, it’s very satisfying.”
N Sang considers Okami (37-14) a tough challenge, noting Okami possesses many of the skills that have given him trouble in the past – namely an excellent ground game. Yet the former champ is given confidence by his preparation at KillCliff FC in Florida, where he has access a wealth of high-level training partners.
“He’s long, he’s tall, and stylistically it’s not a good match-up for me, because long rangy grapplers are the kinds of fighters I have a hard time with,” he said of Okami. “He’s not going to stand and bang with me, that’s for sure.
“But I have really high-level grapplers at my disposal that I can work with. Training’s going very well. We’ve done everything we need to. You guys are going to see a new version of me.”
N Sang recognises that he will probably need to win a few fights to earn the chance to reclaim either of his former titles – particularly if De Ridder still occupies the division’s thrones. But he is not thinking that far ahead, and is instead dedicating all of his energy to toppling Okami.
“I’m probably going to have to beat a few more guys,” he said. “It is what it is.
“My focus is on Okami. That’s the only thing I’m focused on right now. Every day I wake up thinking of Okami – nothing else past that point matters right now.”
ONE 163 will be headlined by a bantamweight kickboxing title fight between Japanese champion Hiroki Akimoto and Thai challenger Petchtanong Petchfergus.
The card will also feature a lightweight MMA contest between former champ Shinya Aoki of Japan, and Khabib Nurmagomedov protégé Saygid Izagakhmaev.
Popular Japanese MMA star Itsuki Hirata will also be in action at the event, taking on South Korean contender Ham Seo-hee at atomweight.