Aung La N Sang’s success has taken him full circle. Over the last 14 years, the Myanmar native has established himself as one of the best middleweights in the world outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and become a promotional face for the One Championship organization. During this process, the current middleweight and light heavyweight champion has also become a sports icon in his homeland.

The son of a jade merchant and stay-at-home mother, Sang, 33, grew up in Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State. While he says they lived a middle-class life, the standards for middle-class in Myanmar and the United States are quite different.

“A lot of things you take for granted in the States we didn’t have,” Sang told Sherdog.com, “but we were middle-class. We were OK. We didn’t have nice things, but we definitely had food on the table.”

While they may have lacked certain luxuries, they were afforded the opportunity — uncommon in Myanmar — to receive above-average schooling.

“We were very blessed to have a good education,” Sang said.

That education included learning English, which made his transition to being a college student in the United States much smoother.

“There wasn’t much of a culture shock,” Sang said when asked about adjusting to life at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. The move was made easier by the reality that life in America was not as enviable as he expected. “I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I was going to be. They make it seem like everything is going to be so great in the movies and in our imagination. Then when we get there, it’s not even that nice. Our dorm beds [and] our mattresses were kind of crappy.”

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