Amir Khan may be just 23, but he has more mixed martial arts experience and success than many athletes who are 10 years his senior.
The Singaporean star was only 19 when he had his first bout as a professional, and in the four and a half years since, he has become one of ONE Championship’s most successful lightweight competitors.
The Evolve representative shares the records for the most wins and finishes in the organization, and even has the most knockouts in ONE history.
You could say that he is already a veteran of the sport, though Khan is quick to downplay that tag.
“I’m not so sure,” he laughs. “You’ll have to ask my teammates. I’m still young, and have plenty of years ahead of me.”
What cannot be denied is his ability and influence on his teammates and other members of the gym.
Though Evolve is filled with dozens of martial arts World Champions, Khan can often teach them as much as they can teach him.
While they have more knowledge of ‘the art of eight limbs’ than almost anyone in the world, Khan can draw on his aptitude for the other elements of the sport to help them adapt their skills for the cage.
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“Of course, once I get better, I’ve just got to be sure I help out all the new people who come in for mixed martial arts,” he says.
“That’s just like the others, such as “Brodinho” (Leandro Issa), who helped me out when I was new.
“Now, I feel more responsibility to help others out when they are having trouble – like Sagetdao with wrestling or on the ground. He has trouble understanding, so I break it down to him slowly.
“I have to care for my teammates. It’s like a cycle. What I do for them, they do for someone else, and those people will do for me. It keeps the cycle going.”
Khan has come a long way in a short amount of time.
He admits he was not in a position to teach anyone when he first walked through the doors of one of Asia’s elite academies. His job back then was to focus on building his understanding of every aspect of the game.
Now, his role has evolved.
“Though I wouldn’t say I understand mixed martial arts 100 percent – because you can never limit your knowledge – I feel like I know mixed martial arts enough that I can break it down in every area. When it comes to striking, wrestling, grappling, and clinching, I can break it down to someone in the gym.”
His ability and experience make him a leader on the mats.
However, his status as a ONE star gives him a responsibility to set an example, and guide his teammates, as well as the ‘regular’ Singaporeans who come to train at Evolve in their free time.
He has taken on that duty like a natural.
“I don’t really have to try hard to set a good example, because I work hard, I’m humble, and I just try to be myself,” he says. “I just do what I do best, and I feel as long as you have good intentions, that’s good enough.
“I used to be one of them. I can share what I was lacking with them so they can have more of an idea what the fight game is about.”
As a native of The Lion City, this means more to Khan than most of the gym’s international contingent. He is an ambassador for his gym, and mixed martial arts in his country.
He tries to share knowledge and advice to guide students, and spread the word about his sport. He would love to have a hand in its growth, and the development of world-class athletes Singapore can be proud of.
“A lot of students look up to me and ask for advice, so of course I have to set the right example and be open about my path if they want to follow my path,” he explains.
“I just want to prove this career has prospects. You can achieve things, make a living out of it, and have fun, you know? You won’t be broke or struggling for food. I want to set a path, achieve the goal, and I feel many Singaporeans will follow.
“In Singapore, many people don’t think you can make a career out of mixed martial arts. I want to show everyone it is possible.”
For an iron-clad example, his compatriots need only tune in to ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, which takes place at the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China on 8 September.
Khan will compete in the co-main event against former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio ‘The Rock’ Banario, and a win would go a long way in fulfilling all of his goals.
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast