The year 2019 has been a rollercoaster for ONE Championship Lightweight Amir Khan.
The 25-year-old has juggled the unique highs of becoming a first-time father with the undeniable lows that come with defeat in the cage.
After an impressive opening round display against Ariel Sexton in the quarter-final of the ONE Lightweight Grand Prix in February, Khan faded down the stretch and fell victim to a third round submission loss.
Sexton’s subsequent injury-enforced withdrawal granted him a second chance at advancing to the final, but he fell victim to a first-round knockout at the hands of surging prospect Saygid Arslanaliev.
That leaves the Evolve MMA product on a three-fight losing streak, one he’s eager to snap as he heads back to the Singapore Indoor Stadium to square off with Ev Ting in the co-main event of ONE: ‘Edge of Greatness’ on Friday.
The Singaporean has done plenty of soul-searching and analysis since that defeat back in May. He believes he’s identified and dealt with the root of the underlying issues that he says were hampering his ability to perform at his undoubted potential, and they originate up top.
“I just learned to be more patient. I feel like I was rushing and that I was more focused on the outcome rather than the fight. I would be looking at what happens after the fight, like I’m going to celebrate, I want to win, and how I feel after the fight. I was focusing on that instead of the fight itself. Right now, whatever I can control, I am just going to focus on that, which is my training, my preparation, and how I fight. Whatever happens after that I don’t, or try not to, think about it right now.”
Khan says the time away from the cage has helped him take stock of his overall fight game from all angles, and has him feeling fresher than ever heading into this weekend. With his mind cleared and focused, he’s confident that will translate into his showing on Friday night.
“Physically and mentally, I feel good. I got five or six months since my last fight, so I had a lot of time to analyze and work on certain things. Right now, especially mentally, I’m at the best I can be. I’m not distracted. I’m super focused, and I know what I have to do to get the victory.”
The match up against ‘E.T.’ has been a long-time coming. The two seemed to have been inextricably linked for the past two years, and now the contest will actually take place,
“One or two years ago, we wanted to fight each other and we were supposed to fight each other, but things didn’t happen. So recently, I just thought it would make perfect sense for us to fight each other. Among anyone else in the division, I think we both make a good match-up. He commented (on Instagram) that he would like to face me and then I just replied, ‘Yeah, why not?’ After that, they sent out the contract.”
Stylistically, it’s a mouthwatering pairing for fans. Both men love to trade and both have a deep toolkit of strikes from which to draw.
Ting is entering the bout on the back of one of the most memorable wins of his career, a second-round submission win over Daichi Abe, and Khan is well aware of the dangers he’ll need to be wary of to avoid the same fate as the UFC veteran,
“I think he likes to fight in the pocket, so I have to keep my range. For me, as a range fighter, I need to keep the range throughout the fight because he is good at closing the distance. It’s good to practice and test myself against such a fighter in such situations. I haven’t fully mastered my range, so I feel it will be a good test for me to challenge myself against someone like Ting because he is one of the best guys in the lightweight division to get in close to people.”
While reluctant to go into detail for obvious reasons, Khan says he and his fight team at Evolve MMA have devised a plan that should put him on the path to victory.
“I have been working a lot on my strategy for this fight, like specific strategies. I’m going to go into this fight trying to fight my game, so I’m not going to play with his rules and I’m not going to be where he is comfortable at. I won’t tell you what I’m working on, but I’m just going to be in positions that he is not comfortable at — not just in striking, but overall mixed martial arts. My game plan is just to make him uncomfortable.”
Khan says he will take his time and conserve his energy,
“I just need to be patient, not rush to anything, and not use too much energy for no reason other than to display my skills at the best level. I will still go for the finish, but I’m not thinking about it. I’m sure I will get it, but I am not really too focused on that. I am just focused on displaying my skills.”
And what better way to both prove a point and wash the bitter taste of defeat out of your mouth than in front of your hometown fans at Singapore Stadium,
“I want to prove that I belong because right now, I’m coming off a losing streak, so a lot of people are doubting me. Not only to everyone, but I just want to prove to myself that I am a top-level fighter, and I can come back and rise again.”