Amir Khan is eager to get 2020 back on track, and he has a list full of potential adversaries in his crosshairs.
ONE Championship may have postponed its March and April events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that has not prevented the 25-year-old Singaporean from looking ahead and improving his martial arts skills.
“I’m just making use of this time now to experiment with new ways of training to better myself,” he explains. “So, once this quarantine is over, I will be much better than I was before. I will not be stagnant.”
With most gyms closed and governments around the world putting their respective countries on varying degrees of lockdown, many athletes have been thinking about the future.
This has led to a spate of opinions on potential rivals they could face in the Circle when the promotion resumes its 2020 calendar of events.
Khan has paid attention to some of the call-outs within the lightweight division, and he has no fear of any of the challengers.
“Since I don’t have any particular opponent in mind at the moment, I would like to accept all their challenges,” the Singaporean says. “I’m talking about Rahul [Raju], Pieter [Buist], and Amarsanaa [Tsogookhuu].”
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All three are elite competitors, and their unique styles of combat could pose a threat to the Evolve representative’s plans of building a new win streak.
Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju is a name with top billing whom Khan expects to meet inside the Circle sooner rather than later.
In a previous interview, the Juggernaut Fight Club product’s head coach Arvind Lalwani expressed a desire for his protégé to face Khan later this year. That is something the Singaporean knockout artist can get behind.
“Rahul is definitely an up-and-coming fighter, and someone who I’ve kept my eye on for a while,” he admits.
The Indian athlete, who is riding a two-bout win streak, had his best year in The Home Of Martial Arts in 2019.
Raju scored two straight finishes – both by way of rear-naked choke – and showed strides of improvement in his grappling. In fact, he was even promoted to brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Khan knows “The Kerala Krusher” is one of the more well-rounded mixed martial artists in the division, but he is confident his striking and experience will give him the edge if the two were to ever meet in the Circle.
“I’m more creative with my strikes now. I often vary and change things up in every match, so he won’t know what’s coming,” the Evolve representative explains.
“He is looking to prove that he belongs with the top lightweights in the division, and I will make it a tough test.”
Khan is also open to testing himself against one of the fastest-rising stars in the weight class, Pieter “The Archangel” Buist.
The Dutchman has caught lightning in a bottle, and he is coming off the biggest victory of his seven-and-a-half-year mixed martial arts career.
With just under two weeks’ notice, “The Archangel” edged out former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang via split decision this past January. The win elevated his record to 17-4.
“I was very impressed with his performance against Folayang,” Khan shares. “It was a career-defining win for him.”
The Singaporean knockout artist is well aware of his adversary’s height and reach advantage, but believes he has the power to instantly turn the match in his favor.
“Once I close the distance, I will get those hard punches in,” he continues. “I’m also constantly improving my takedown defense so I can control the contest.”
Another person the young lion has kept his eye on is Amarsanaa “Spear” Tsogookhuu.
The Mongolian warrior has been vocal about his desire to challenge the former ONE Lightweight World Title contender. While a match-up between the two never materialized previously, the timing now could finally be right.
“He called me out many times on social media, but I hadn’t responded yet because I was already scheduled for fights,” Khan explains. “Now that I have no opponent, I am more than happy to take him on.”
The last time “Spear” was in action, he engaged in a tough back-and-forth battle with Folayang at ONE: MASTERS OF FATE in November 2019. An unintentional clash of heads led to a technical decision in favor of the Filipino hero.
Tsogookhuu would certainly welcome the opportunity to redeem himself by taking out a marquee name like Khan, and the Singaporean Muay Thai Champion has no qualms about going toe-to-toe with the Mongolian striker.
“I’m very focused on getting better, to the point that I am confident that I can hold my own against anyone – even Tsogookhuu,” he offers.
Khan recognizes that acing these challenges will put him back on the path towards the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
For the Singaporean, it doesn’t necessarily matter if he meets Raju, Buist, or Tsogookhuu in the Circle next. The only thing he is concerned about is defeating the man who stands across from him, whoever he may be.
“I want to prove to myself and the fans that I am a World Championship-caliber fighter,” he says. “I will go through [my opponents] and come out with the win.”