Amir Khan (7-2) is quickly emerging as a potential title contender.
Ever since completing his National Service obligations in the Singapore Civil Defence Force this past May, the 22-year-old has turned his attention towards the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
However, before a title shot can enter the picture, he needs to get a few more wins under his belt. That quest will begin on Saturday, 2 September, when he meets Czech striker Jaroslav Jartim at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI.
“Throughout the year, whether I have a match or not, I am only looking to improve myself. All the other factors, like my next opponent, are just things that will get me closer to the title,” Khan says, as he elaborates about his training camp.
“Jaroslav (Jartim) is tall, lanky, and throws conventional punches and kicks, so I did not bring anyone in to train for him. I just trained as per normal, and I feel I am good at adjusting to people’s movements, while others have a hard time adjusting to mine.”
Khan may be ready to turn from prospect to contender, but he is fully aware that it takes a strong community, like his teammates at Evolve MMA and other positive influences, to help him on his rise to superstardom.
As a child, Khan only had a passing interest in martial arts. He was drawn to action movies featuring Thai star Tony Jaa, and often roughhoused with his cousin and their friends to emulate the moves they saw.
That all changed at the age of 13. That was when he started getting picked on because of his small stature, and the involuntary tics brought on by Tourette Syndrome. He wanted to do something about it, and find a place where he felt like he could belong.
“Honestly, when I was growing up, I was just a skinny little kid. I did not really get bullied badly, but because of my Tourette’s, I kind of got bullied here and there,” Khan recalls. “I did not really fit in anywhere, so I guess I was looking for somewhere I could fit in, and I just stumbled across Muay Thai. I wanted to try it out to get stronger and boost my confidence.”
Just six months into his training, Khan excelled, and participated in his first official bout. The culture and the buzz he experienced from competing brought his love for Muay Thai to a whole new level. He started watching K-1 World MAX, traveled to Thailand to train, and ultimately discovered his first martial arts hero in the legendary Buakaw Por Pramuk.
“I looked up to Buakaw a lot,” he admits. “Then, I bought a K-1 World MAX DVD, and I thought, ‘I want to be on the global stage like that one day.’”
Khan moved across the globe to America in 2012, made his professional cage debut in February 2014, and then joined Evolve MMA upon his return. There, he found a hungry team of like-minded individuals who were eager to both help others and achieve their dreams.
“When I came to Evolve MMA, obviously I learned a lot initially from [wrestling coach] Heath Sims, and then I learned a lot from Eddie Ng, and all the Muay Thai world champions,” he begins.
Another person who has helped him tremendously in recent months is Ebersole, who arrived to the gym as their new head coach in April.
“He has helped me in the transition between striking and wrestling,” Khan begins. “Before Brian (Ebersole), I had wrestling, but I did not really have many options. I had good setups, but I wouldn’t have many takedown options. Right now, I feel like I have added five or six more options to my wrestling game.”
While his teammates, his friends, Buakaw, and even those pesky bullies have played a part in shaping Khan’s martial arts journey, the biggest inspiration he gets comes in the form of his parents.
Admittedly, his mother is not particularly fond of seeing her son compete inside the cage, but his father has been incredibly supportive. So much so that he manages Khan’s meals, and even cleans his gloves.
What is most striking, however, is his father’s life philosophy. It is a philosophy that has afforded Khan the time to develop as a martial artist, and has allowed him to build the foundations for a promising career without too much added stress.
“My dad believes in working for your passion,” Khan explains. “When I was growing up, all of my friends were working, and they had more money to spend. So, I was telling my dad that I should just find a job so I did not have to ask money from him.
“He stopped me, and said, ‘If you want money, just ask for it from me, as long as you are doing what you love. I would rather you train for eight hours instead of being a waiter for eight hours.’ He does not really like me to waste my time. That is what he believes – if you really love it and are committed to it, then spend your entire time doing it.”
Now, the Singaporean is spending all of his time in preparation for his match against Jartim on 2 September at ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI. A victory will only bring the lightweight closer to the title opportunity he desires, and he is fully intent on becoming Singapore’s first male world champion opposite his Evolve teammate, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee.
It is a sentiment he stated plainly in the cage after his most recent win, a 90-second dismantling of Rajinder Singh Meena in May. “Mark my words, I’ll be the first male Singaporean world champion.”
Shanghai | 2 September | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com