On Saturday, 8 September, Khan did just that, and broke the former ONE Featherweight World Champion’s five-bout winning streak at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON in Shanghai, China.
The victory came via a first-round rear-naked choke, meaning the Evolve representative achieved his goal.
Amir Khan Ansari made a HUGE statement at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON.Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, September 10, 2018
“He’s a top fighter and one of the top guys,” says Khan.
“Because he had big momentum, is a former champion, and I got a dominant finish, I think it’s the biggest and most impressive win of my career.
“There are always improvements I can make. I feel I can put more combinations together with my strikes, but I was really happy with my finish.
“I don’t think I could get a better finish than that. Either way, I am happy.”
Khan may have been dominant in the bout, but his entire experience – from his training camp to the contest itself – was anything but easy.
Knowing the standard of opposition in front of him, he threw himself entirely into preparation in the gym, which was made more difficult by illness.
“I feel any fight is not easy. The stress of fight week and preparation makes it tough mentally, no matter what.” he says
“The preparation was not easy. I went through a lot. I got sick before the fight – I had something like shingles on my face – so I had to be on antibiotics a week before the fight, and I trained hard every day. My coach pushed me to my limit.
“I felt great by event night. I finished my course of antibiotics about five days before, so I managed to recover really well and I felt strong.”
The outcome was a little out of the ordinary for Khan. He is no novice on the ground, but he is best known as a knockout artist – being the record holder for the most knockouts in ONE history.
Though he engaged with Banario on the feet in the opening moments of this match-up, Khan soon flexed his grappling muscle.
It was not his usual strategy, but it was the one that worked on this occasion, as the 23-year-old countered his opponent’s kicks to take control of proceedings.
“I create a few scenarios of how the fight would end up, based on how he and I fight,” Khan explains.
“To take him down, control him, and finish him was one of those scenarios, so I wouldn’t say I was going desperately going for the takedown. You could see I was not chasing it, and I timed my shot.
“I was feeling him out. I felt the energy he was giving me. He was putting so much into his shots, and I knew the moment you extend on your shots, you will be vulnerable for a takedown.
“I took it, and I knew once I controlled him on the ground, I had to be patient, because he has got good submission defense, and I just had to not exhaust myself and be smart with every move I made.”
Khan credits his new coach, Eduardo Pamplona, for much of his success in Shanghai.
The Brazilian was officially announced as the new Evolve head coach last month, and his positive influence was instantaneous.
By putting him through the wringer on the mats every day, and coming up with sound strategies for event night, Khan’s preparation was on point. It seems like it could be the start of a successful partnership – with him and the rest of the team.
“First of all, he brings all of us together in the team. There is better bonding in the gym. He’s a great leader,” Kahn says.
“He’s very technical with his game plans. We have a specific strategy and he breaks it down. We fight smarter now. We have someone to guide us. Before that, we were just training with each other and helping each other out.
“He’s also really tough, so he will break us mentally – in the right way. Not so much that you won’t want to train tomorrow, but the right amount.”
With such an important figure guiding Khan and the Evolve team, expect even greater things from the Singaporean star when he returns to action.