SINGAPORE — After what had been a tough 2019 career-wise for mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Amir Khan, the Singaporean has emerged relaxed, refocused and hopefully wiser ahead of his first fight in 2020.
The 25-year-old was mired in a three-match losing streak in ONE Championship – the longest since he made his professional debut in 2014 – before finally tasting victory again in beating Malaysian rival Ev Ting in Singapore last November.
As the Evolve MMA Academy assistant instructor prepares to face Japan’s Kimihiro Eto in the ONE: King of the Jungle fight event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday (28 February), Amir told Yahoo News Singapore that he learnt a lot from last year’s setbacks.
“The whole year was tough for me, and I was trying to be patient in improving all aspects of my fighting,” he said.
“I had wanted to eliminate every doubt I had during my training, so that when I go into a competitive fight, I would have answers for whatever my opponents throw at me. That way, I can just enter the ring and fight my head off.”
Sticking to his guns before results finally arrive
The results did not come immediately. After losing his ONE Championship lightweight title shot to Filipino fighter Eduard Folayang in November 2018, Amir endured two more defeats – to Costa Rican fighter Ariel Sexton in February 2019 and to Turkish grappler Saygid Arslanaliev two months later.
His reputation as one of the top knockout fighters in the region took a beating, but he stuck to his guns and trained even harder. It finally paid off near the end of the year, as he defeated Ting via a split decision last November, much to his relief.
“It wasn’t a great win, but it was good to have the winning momentum going again,” he said. “I admit that I was having nightmares about losing again, so getting that win is important in that now I can be relaxed and focused on my training, instead of thinking about wins and losses all the time.”
And Amir now has a renowned coach by his side to push him to greater heights. Former Shooto world champion Siyar Bahadurzada of Afghanistan recently joined Evolve MMA as its fight team head coach, and he brings plenty of martial arts experience and professional know-how to impart to the stable of fighters.
Coming up against Eto, an expert in judo and wrestling, Amir will be looking to play to his strength in striking and keep his range away from the Japanese. If he could do that, he believes that “99 per cent I’ll win the fight”.
Despite fighting at the Indoor Stadium, he cannot count on the crowd support, as the fight event will be a closed-doored occasion, due to the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
“You’ll want to get the energy from the home crowd, but that won’t be possible this time around,” Amir said. “I’ll just have to focus on dominating my opponent. I’ll just treat it like a sparring session during my training, no issues there.”
Year of learning to make the next leap
Indeed, after enduring a tough year, Amir is ready to face all comers and position himself back among the contenders in the stacked lightweight division. And he does not feel as if last year had been a wasted period in his career.
“It’s like a year of learning for me, in order for me to make the next leap in my career,” he said. “I want to show the world how I overcame last year, how much I’ve improved, how I am coming back stronger even after all the setbacks.
“All the things I trained for last year, it’s like learning to drive a car. Once you get the hang of it, it stays with you throughout your life. I’m ready for this year.”
ONE: King of the Jungle fight card:
Women’s atomweight kickboxing world championship: Stamp Fairtex (THA) vs Janet Todd (USA)
Men’s strawweight muay thai world championship: Sam-A Gaiyanghadao (THA) vs Rocky Odgen (AUS)
Men’s lightweight: Amir Khan (SGP) vs Kimihiro Eto (JPN)
Men’s welterweight: Yoshihiro Akiyama (JPN) vs Sherif Mohamad (EGY)
Women’s strawweight: Tiffany Teo (SGP) vs Ayaka Miura (JPN)
Women’s atomweight: Mei Yamaguchi (JPN) vs Denice Zamboanga (PHI)
Men’s bantamweight: Troy Worthen (USA) vs Mark Fairtex Abelardo (NZL)
Men’s featherweight: Shannon Wiratchai (THA) vs Honorio Banario (PHI)
Women’s atomweight: Ritu Phogat (IND) vs Wu Chiao-chen (TPE)
Men’s welterweight: Murad Ramazanov (RUS) vs Bae Myung-ho (KOR)
Men’s bantamweight: Radeem Rahman (SGP) vs Jeff Chan (CAN)
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