National Service is something that all Singaporean men have to do, but for Amir Khan it came at a bad time. The 22-year-old was just starting to establish himself as a top contender in ONE Championship’s featherweight division when he got called up.
Khan was still able to fit in two fights last year, winning them both, but he is now a full-time fighter again and hopes to be busier in 2017.
“I ORD (finished national service) on May 4. I’m proud to have served my nation and am glad to have completed my two years. Now I’m focused on my journey to become a world champion.”
At ONE: Dynasty of Heroes on Friday, Khan will be facing India’s Rajinder Singh Meena. It will be his sixth time fighting in the Singapore Indoor Stadium and he says the venue is starting to feel like home.
“It’s the best feeling in the world being able to perform live in front of your fans, family, and friends. The energy I get is always amazing. No words can describe it.”
After having to fit training sessions around national service commitments for his last five fights, Khan has been able to dedicate himself to preparation this time around, at least for the last few weeks. He’s been working with a number of coaches at Evolve MMA and has been tuning up his wrestling with a UFC vet.
“The new head coach of the Evolve tight team, Brian Ebersole, has been working a lot with me to sharpen my wrestling. I’ve been working with Eddie Ng, Muay Thai World Champion Sagetdao Petpayathai, BJJ World Champion Bruno Pucci, Benedict Ang, BJJ World Champion Brodinho Issa, and Shinya Aoki. I definitely will show the fans a new version of myself.”
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In his last fight he had to survive a brutal looking Kimura attempt from Vaughn Donayre. The fight looked over as the Filipino cranked on his arm and Khan had to rely on all his reserves of mental fortitude.
“Subconsciously, my mind was telling me to tap and take the easy way out. The battle that day was not with my opponent, but with my mind. I’m glad I choose to fight it off.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from the knowledgeable Singapore crowd when Donayre caught Khan in the submission. This was followed by a roar when the local favorite escaped and it’s a moment he will never forget.
“I can remember it clearly. There was a loud roar from the fans when I escaped and it gave me an additional boost to finish my opponent.”
Khan is facing a former SFL lightweight champion on Friday, but hasn’t spent too much time worrying about his opponent’s skill set.
“I don’t know much about this guy, but I know for sure he is game and will show up on fight night. I’m expecting the best version of him to come out on May 26.”
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Khan is of Indian descent himself, but says he has no qualms about being matched with one of India’s top lightweights.
“I have a lot of supporters from India too, as I have a lot of relatives over there, but it doesn’t feel strange. In this sport you are bound to fight people from your own ethnicity.”
Eduard Folayang’s shocking win over Shinya Aoki last year blew the lightweight division wide open. The Japanese fighter trains at Evolve MMA, so Khan could never have fought him, but no such restrictions apply to the current champion.
With three wins in a row and a 6-1 overall record for ONE Championship, Khan is entitled to believe he is a contender, even if there are others ahead in the queue. A win on Friday would be a big step in the right direction and the fans in the Singapore Indoor Stadium are guaranteed to get behind this homegrown hero.
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