Mixed martial arts: 'Burmese Python' given hero's welcome on return to Myanmar

Mixed martial arts fighter Aung La N Sang talks to the media during a press conference at Yangon on Jan 7, 2016.
Mixed martial arts fighter Aung La N Sang talks to the media during a press conference at Yangon on Jan 7, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar fight fans swarmed to a Yangon hotel on Thursday for a glimpse of a mixed martial arts specialist dubbed the "Burmese Python" as he returned home after over a decade in the United States.

Aung La N Sang, who has caused a stir in the kickboxing-mad South-east Asian nation since his arrival earlier this week, made his first public appearance at the press conference to promote a fight planned for March.

The 30-year-old told AFP on Wednesday that coming back to Myanmar "felt like a dream, but at the same time it felt like home".

He also told reporters that he wanted to help Myanmar fighters, trained on the bone-crunching local kickboxing style lethwei, to diversify their techniques in order to compete internationally in mixed martial arts.

Aung was born in Myanmar when the country was still under junta rule, but left when he was 18 to study agriculture in the US state of Indiana.

He had planned to return to his homeland to start a farm in the northern state of Kachin - a war-torn area bordering China where he was born. But after discovering a love for jiu jitsu his "dreams have changed" and he stayed on to train in mixed martial arts in the US, where he now runs a gym.

The middleweight fighter now has 16 wins and 9 losses under his belt, and a keen following in the mixed martial arts community.

But he is especially beloved by boxing fans in Myanmar, who have battled the country's lacklustre Internet speeds to follow his progress online and laud his visit on social media.