Local MMA fighter Amir Khan: My time is now
Local MMA fighter Amir relishing tomorrow's One Championship bout, eyes title shot
In front of local mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Amir Khan yesterday at Marina Bay Sands was a room packed with over 400 journalists, cameramen and MMA fans.
To his right was Singapore Olympian turned mixed martial artist May Ooi.
To his left, American Ben Askren, the undefeated One Championship welterweight world champion, regarded by some as the best in the world in his weight class.
Amir, only 23, was in exalted company at the press conference ahead of One Championship's Immortal Pursuit event, but said he felt right at home.
Tomorrow, he faces Australian veteran Adrian Pang in one of the co-main events, with Askren facing Japan's Shinya Aoki in the other.
Amir told The New Paper: "It's surreal, but it also feels right. I've always pictured myself up there (on the posters as the main event) and it's nice to be here.
"But I won't be truly happy or contented, until I win the (world) title."
The lightweight fighter, who is an instructor at local gym Evolve MMA, believes a victory over Pang would mean that he is ready for a title shot.
I believe if you beat any of the top guys, you've proven yourself.Singapore's Amir Khan, who is eyeing a win over Australia's Adrian Pang tomorrow
But One Championship chairman Chatri Sityodtong believes the Singaporean upstart, who has eight wins and two losses, still has to prove he can hang with the top fighters in his weight division.
"Amir has fought people at his level, and this is a big step-up," said Chatri.
"Adrian is a former lightweight world champion for Legend (Fighting Championship, a defunct promotion), and he is a world championship-calibre fighter.
"Can Amir, the young lion, topple the seasoned, experienced lion, who still has sharp teeth and sharp claws?
"So let's just focus on that for now. If he can get through this test, then we'll talk about more.
"You can never go straight to the world title without tests... This is a huge fight for Singapore."
Amir has no qualms fighting his way to a title shot.
He said: "I believe, in the fight game, if you beat any of the top guys, you've proven yourself. And Adrian is one of those top guys.
"But if (Chatri) wants me to keep proving myself, I'll keep doing it. Adrian is very durable, and I don't expect an easy fight. But I still expect to finish him."
Pang, 40, believes Amir is making a mistake if the Singaporean is already looking past him.
"I've got a very successful gym in Australia, Integrated MMA, and I have a lot of champions in that gym and I stand with them every day," said the 42-fight veteran.
"So, this kid's not going to bring anything I've never seen before."
When told about Amir's confident comments, Pang smirked and said: "Of course, he has to say something. What else is he going to say? A fight's a fight. Anything can happen.
"But I'm looking to beat him down and finish him. Brutally."
Besides Amir's bout with Pang, Evolve MMA teammates Askren and Aoki clash in what will be the American's final fight as an MMA exponent.
Speaking through a translator, Aoki said: "To be honest, I'm very scared. But, I'm ready to kill him and ready to be killed."
Askren said in response: "I'm excited, my career with One Championship started here in Singapore in May 2014, so it's fitting it ends here."
Elsewhere on the card at Immortal Pursuit, May Ooi faces Cambodian Vy Srey Khouch, while another Singaporean fighter, Tiffany Teo, faces Puja Tomar from India.