Following his recent elimination from the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix after an opening round loss to Ariel Sexton, Amir Khan was anxious to get back in action to wash the bad taste of defeat from his mouth.
The setback was Khan’s second loss in a row overall and he knew something had to change as he prepared for his next fight at ONE: ‘Enter the Dragon’ on Friday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium,
“I feel like the last few months, I changed a lot of my training,” Khan explained.
“I didn’t do well the last two fights and me along with the team at Evolve MMA, we sat back and we adjusted the training based on our coaches. So my training has completely changed. I would say it’s more technical now. We are more technical and as a whole team we break down our individual weaknesses.”
While he was already preparing for his return on Friday, Khan received an unexpected call from ONE Championship a few weeks ago with a unique opportunity presented to him.
Sexton suffered an injury that would knock him out of the next round of the Grand Prix tournament, which mean highly touted lightweight knockout artist Saygid Arslanaliev needed an opponent.
Khan was offered the chance to face ‘Dagi’ on short notice and he didn’t hesitate for a second to jump back into the Grand Prix,
“I’m pretty excited about it. Actually, I was already scheduled for May 17th against a different opponent so I’m in shape,” Khan said.
“I’ve been training for May 17th but I wasn’t training for ‘Dagi’. ONE Championship told me Ariel Sexton got injured, he broke his hand or something I’m not sure to be exact but they offered me a fight against ‘Dagi’ to get back into the Grand Prix.”
While he wasn’t preparing specifically for the challenges that Arslanaliev will present, Khan was actually working tirelessly on his grappling and wrestling defense, which he believes will play a huge part in Friday’s fight.
“I’ve been working in that area even though I wasn’t scheduled to face a wrestler. It’s perfect,” Khan said.
“I’ve been defending takedowns for the past two months and sharpening my striking and when they offered me ‘Dagi’ I said ‘why not’ because I’ve been training for that kind of fighter anyways. It’s like the universe was giving me a sign.”
Now there’s little doubt that Khan will be a decided underdog when he steps into the ring on Friday to do battle with Arslanaliev. The native of Turkey has laid waste to every opponent he’s faced in ONE Championship minus a disqualification loss he had back in 2017 due to an illegal kick.
Outside of that, ‘Dagi’ has racked up six wins in ONE with all of his fights ending by way of knockout or submission. Khan knows he’s facing a tall task going up against a human wrecking ball like Arslanaliev but he’s confident that he has the weapons necessary to counter the powerful striking attack that has taken out every opponent before him,
“I think on the feet, he’s wild and strong and powerful but I don’t think he’s very technical,” Khan said about his opponent.
The Singaporean thinks his height and reach could be an advantage,
“I feel like on the feet, he’ll lead you with his hooks and if he catches people, he’ll follow up but I feel because I’m way longer than him, it won’t work on me. I feel once he tries to strike with me and it doesn’t work, he’ll try to take me down. That’s what we’ve been working on with our takedown defense.”
Khan believes if he sticks to a few basics and plays to his own strengths, he can give ‘Dagi’ a lot of problems and truly earn his way back into the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix with a victory.
“Right now, there’s four things I’m focused on my mind. If I do this, I will 100% beat ‘Dagi’. The four things are distance, frame, speed and footwork. As long as I play by those rules, I will beat him,” Khan said.
The Singaporean doesn’t plan to stand in the pocket and trade bombs at ONE: ‘Enter the Dragon’. But he believes he has the tools to score an upset win that would book his spot in the tournament final.
“If you stand in front of ‘Dagi’, then it won’t be a good night for you. If you just stand there, hit for hit, he’s very powerful. You wouldn’t want to play to his strengths. Coincidentally, I’ve been working a lot with my boxing coach and we’ve been working on my footwork, using my straight punches, long reach punches and I think it will be perfect for ‘Dagi’.”