Amir Khan will be back in action at ONE: Pride of Lions next month when he takes on Filipino featherweight Jimmy Yabo. It will be his fifth fight for the organization, but the Singaporean’s personal circumstances are dramatically different this time around.
Khan is 20 years old and, like all young men from Singapore, he is required to enter national service. He enlisted a few months ago and that means he has plenty on his plate as he prepares to face Yabo on Nov. 13.
“It’s tough because I have to adapt my work schedule and training, but it’s going well and I feel good. I’m blessed to have good support from Evolve MMA, who can accommodate my odd training timings; from my dad, who drives me from my work to gym and back; and lastly from my division for supporting me and allowing me to train.”
National service is a full-time occupation for most people, but Khan has somehow found a way to fit double daily sessions around the time he spends serving the country.
“I do two sessions a day, six times a week. My camp has given me special permission to train the morning sessions on some days and I would like to thank them for making it possible. The second session I do after work. If I missed any session during the week, I make up for it on the weekend and my schedule always changes from week to week.”
The experience of entering national service is one that all Singaporean men of a certain age will be able to relate to. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Khan is proving so popular with the local crowd, he was born and bred in the “Lion City” and, apart from a few years spent studying in the U.S., has lived there all his life.
It would also explain why ONE Championship was so keen to get him on the forthcoming card at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Khan can certainly shift a few tickets and the 20-year-old says that when it comes to competing in MMA there is no place like home.
“I absolutely love fighting in Singapore. The crowd are amazing and it give me a proud feeling knowing that I’m fighting for them and my country.”
Khan’s last fight at the Singapore Indoor Stadium did not quite go according to plan. He dropped a split decision to top Thai featherweight Shannon Wiratchai in a fight he still feels he did enough to win.
“I felt I won that fight, but I respect the judge’s decision and the right thing to do is to move on and learn from my mistakes to make me a better fighter.”
When pressed upon exactly what lessons he took from that disappointment, Khan elaborated.
“I learned to be more loose and relaxed than I was before. I would finish him if we ever meet again.”
So we can expect to see a more ruthless Khan at ONE: Pride of Lions. Not that he was exactly known for his patience before the fight with Wiratchai, having stopped all three of his previous opponents. It’s a far cry from the days when the Singaporean was 0-1 as a professional. He says joining Evolve MMA helped to turn his career around.
“I was submitted in my pro debut, but since joining Evolve MMA, I have stopped three of my opponents and my only loss was a split decision. I work with the whole team, so there is a lot of different sizes and styles to train with and everyone is at a very high level. Heath Sims oversees the whole training and makes sure all the fighters get a good program.”
Yabo holds a black belt in Taekwondo, but, like Khan, is coming off a loss. The Singaporean says he hasn’t spent too much time studying his Nov. 13 opponent, but believes he is simply better than him at everything.
“I don’t know much about Jimmy. I heard he is comfortable in the striking exchange, but I feel I’m better at him everywhere.”
Singapore is ONE Championship’s home and the promotion always gets good attendances for events there. There might be a few new faces in the crowd at next month’s show because Khan says that many of his fellow servicemen will be there to support him.
“My division will definitely be there. They are already asking for tickets.”
In terms of what to expect on fight night, Khan says that, this time, he does not want to risk being on the receiving end of another debatable split decision verdict and plans on putting Yabo away well before the three rounds are up.
“I’m not going to wait for the judges this time. I’m going for the finish only.”
(Follow @JamesGoyder on Twitter)