Sports

Amir Khan eyes 'fantasy run' in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix

Last November at ONE: Conquest of Champions, Amir Khan was on the cusp of tasting ONE Lightweight World Title gold.

He was bidding to become the country’s first homegrown mixed martial arts World Champion in his contest against the Philippines’ Eduard “Landslide” Folayang.

While a unanimous decision loss denied the young lion his chance at becoming a World Champion, it did little to deter his resolve.

Khan — a Singaporean Muay Thai Champion — has redemption on his mind, and he is grinding hard in training camp at Evolve MMA, where he has been an Assistant Muay Thai Instructor for the past few years.

A new path to the gold has opened up for the 24-year-old, and he begins his march to the coveted belt on Friday, 22 February here in “The Lion City.”

He is scheduled to face mixed martial arts veteran Ariel “Tarzan” Sexton of Costa Rica in a ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix quarter-final at ONE: Call To Greatness.

As the sole Singapore representative amongst the lineup of elite lightweights, Khan is only focused on making the best of this opportunity.

“If you win the Grand Prix, you fight for the World Title belt,” he says.

“There are big names. Ev Ting is unpredictable, he can mix everything up. ‘Dagi' [Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev] is really aggressive with his takedowns and punches, and Timofey [Nastyukhin] is a really aggressive striker. Everyone is on the edge of their seats.”

Ahead of his return at ONE: Call To Greatness in the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Khan has learned to deal with the pressure of competing in front of his hometown crowd. 

In addition to holding the knockout record in ONE Championship, he also holds the distinction of being just the third-ever Singaporean signed to the prestigious Evolve Fight Team in Asia.

Amir Khan is a FINISHER.

Amir Khan Ansari is a FINISHER. Singapore | 22 February | 6:00PM | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onegreatness19

Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, 3 February 2019

However, the young lion knows not to take his Costa Rican opponent lightly, who has told fans to expect a wild finish in their match.

“Ariel is very talented on the ground, and he’s very tricky. His best weapons are tricks on the ground, and his striking makes it awkward to fight with. He’s lanky, and he throws big looping shots,” the Evolve product explains.

“If you are not ready for that awkward style, you’ll be shocked on that night, and he’ll catch you with shots.”

Sexton’s submission expertise, while formidable, is something Khan is prepared for. 

The Singaporean has formulated a game plan and aims to finish “Tarzan" just like he would every top caliber opponent he faces in the ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix.

“My plan for this fight is to stay on my feet and not let him take me down,” he explains. 

"I have to be really prepared for his striking as he doesn’t put his hands up — he kind of dips his head and he swings wildly. I’m focusing a lot on those scenarios, and I’m looking to finish Ariel Sexton.

“I feel you have to finish every fight in the Grand Prix just to make a statement. I’m confident in my stamina and conditioning. My main thing is to just leave it all out there and not to think so much.” 

Should Khan emerge victorious in his quarter-final bout, he will face the winner of Ting versus Arslanaliev, which will also be contested at ONE: Call To Greatness.

However, the Evolve product anticipates winning his side of the bracket, and he wants to test his skills against a legend in the tournament's final.

“Everyone has a particular, dangerous skill set,” he says.

“I feel everyone can be a champion, it just depends on how they fight that night and how it proceeds. I’m hoping Eddie Alvarez wins his side of the bracket so I can face him in the finals. I mean, that’s the fantasy match-up, right?”

In order for that to happen, Khan and Alvarez have to keep winning. If that happens, perhaps that fantasy scenario could be held in Singapore later this year.

MMA (MIXED MARTIAL ARTS)