Two-division ONE World Champion Aung La N Sang competes to be the best in ONE Championship, but the Myanmar athlete also has a desire to inspire others and help improve the lives of people in his home country.
“The Burmese Python” returns to action on 26 October at ONE: PURSUIT OF GREATNESS as he puts his ONE Middleweight World Title on the line against Mohammad “O Lutador” Karaki at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
And the 33-year-old hopes another successful title defence on home soil will help him build on his plans to build a scholarship programme and a school.
“There is a lot of interest in mixed martial arts now because of my success, and there’s a lot of people that want to invest [in the sport],” he says.
“I want to help out my community. I want to help out the place I grew up in.
“I’m going to be running some programmes where I’m going to take some kids and have them go to school and get a free education and learn [mixed martial arts] – a world-class level of training.
“They’ll be going to school every day, they’ll be fed, they’ll have housing, and they’ll be learning martial arts. That is the plan.”
NBA superstar LeBron James has already had success in founding a school for underprivileged children in his hometown in the United States, and Aung La N Sang says he’d love to replicate that success in Myanmar with his scholarship programme.
“What LeBron James is doing is amazing. I want to do something similar to that,” he says.
“I come from a different world. It’s a village. We were very isolated. As somebody from that region, from that part of the world, you feel small when you think about other people from other countries with all this technology and all this [wealth]. I want to be able to lift those people up as well.”
Aung La N Sang knows that it will be a gradual process, but he hopes that over time he can use the sport of mixed martial arts to help Burmese people thrive.
“A lot of the community wants to be part of the programme,” he says.
“There’s still a lot of details [that need to be worked] out right now, but I have the means to do it, and I have the support to do it. I don’t want to just make it a one-time thing. I want to make it a long-term thing.”
As well as his scholarship programme, “The Burmese Python” also has plans to open a chain of gyms in Myanmar to help spread the gospel of mixed martial arts throughout the community.
“We’re going to open one or two gyms this year after my fight. We’re not playing,” he reveals.
While some athletes single-mindedly chase greatness within the sporting realm, Aung La N Sang believes he has a higher purpose than just being a World Champion.
He believes it is his duty to use his position as Myanmar’s first sporting World Champion to give back to his home nation.
“It’s very important for me because if you’re in a position to help, I believe you should help others,” he says.
“If you’re in a position to make a difference, which I am right now, I’m going to use that position, and I’m going to use that platform to inspire and to bring a new generation up.”