Fill Me In
In this edition of On The Pitch, TheHomeGround Asia had the opportunity to have a Zoom interview with professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Amir Khan, about his thoughts before his fight with fellow lightweight contender Park Dae Sung, as well as about the future of MMA in Singapore.
Amir, 26, was originally due to go up against Park during the ONE: Collision Course event on 18 December. However, due to changes in the fight card because of the pandemic, Amir will now meet Park in the octagon in the second installment of ONE: Collision Course, scheduled to air on 25 December.
Like most fighters, Amir has been training specifically to fight his opponent. “We’ve created a good game plan that we think will most likely work on him and we ramped up the intensity, volume initially, but towards the fight we’ve tapered down.”
Despite the delay, however, Amir remains unfazed, as he says that he’s been preparing well for the fight. “We’ve been training towards the fight, so nothing much has changed, really. It’s all psychological now, so I’ll just show up on that day.”
More than just physical training
Besides physical training, Amir also reveals that there is a psychological aspect in his preparation. “I do visualisations, and I do breathing exercises to try and calm myself down; I visualise myself in the cage, and all the emotions that I’m feeling, so I just replay that in my mind. I think it just compounded over the two months, so on that day my mind is ready for it.”
He is the third Singaporean professional fighter on the Evolve fight team, alongside the likes of Angela Lee and Linus Lau. Originally a Muay Thai fighter, he also holds a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is currently one of the top contenders for the lightweight ONE championship belt.
When asked about his strategy for winning the belt, Amir says that he intends to take it one fight at a time. “The plan is to try and take things one step at a time, so I have to finish this fight [against Park], and dominate the next guy, and the next one; slowly but surely I’ll reach there by next year.”
Void deck fighter turned MMA fighter
His confidence about attaining his goal isn’t unfounded. Amir has been training since the tender age of 13. Amir’s foray into the world of Muay Thai resulted from brawls that he would have after school with his classmates, who made fun of him because of his Tourettes’ Syndrome – a neurological condition that causes a person to twitch involuntarily.
Now that he’s managed to achieve substantial success for himself as a fighter, Amir hopes to be able to inspire the young with his craft, starting with his year-old son. “[So far] he seems pretty keen when I show him how to kick and punch… he [also] likes to jump on me and bite me, I guess you can say he’s got some animal instincts! We’ll see how it goes from there.”
In his capacity as an Assistant Coach at Evolve, he’s also been doling out useful advice to aspiring young fighters. “[When] kids come up to me and ask for advice, I’ll share my experiences and knowledge with them, stuff that I’ve acquired from my past experience, and try to help them in any way possible. Mostly it’s to help steer them in the right direction, and to help [clarify] their thoughts.”
He also bases his advice from past coaches, as well as his background in sports science. “I’ve been through good and bad training, so I know what’s good for an individual. I’m also studying sports science, [so] I have the knowledge to back it up as well. So with all that added knowledge, I try not to give advice that is too challenging. I like to be as specific as possible, without telling them what to do.”
Even though he respects each individual’s choice, he maintains that there are certain qualities that a fighter should embody. “[Apart from things like] discipline [and] hard work, I also feel like relentlessness and perseverance [are important]. When you fall, you need to get back up and keep on believing in yourself. Not only when times are good but especially when times are bad, you have to have that self belief.”
What future does MMA have in Singapore?
As a fighter cum assistant coach, Amir sees huge potential in the MMA scene here in Singapore. “I think it’s gonna be big. The sport is definitely catching up, and a lot of people are into it. I see a lot of young fighters training and they want to be professional fighters. It takes time, because now they’re young, so it will take time for them to build an amateur status and get opportunities. I think in 10 years there will be many more Singaporean fighters, and it will be [considered] normal.”
Knowing that MMA has had a reputation for being a violent and gory sport, Amir is also keenly aware of some of the misconceptions that people have about MMA. “I feel like fighting should be just like any sport, like golf or basketball. It should be a legitimate sport. People choose to fight because it’s their passion, not because they’re gangsters. I think I’m a nice person, I’m quiet and all, but you wouldn’t think that of a fighter.”
“Amir’s done it, so can I”
To round up the interview, we asked Amir what he would like to be remembered for, as one of the pioneer professional MMA fighters in Singapore, and as an assistant coach.
“[Up till now], there’s never been a ONE Champion produced locally in Singapore, so I would like to achieve that, so that people can look up to me and say, if he can do it, so can I. Because right now maybe there’s not much belief in it because no one has done it, and it’s almost like an impossible task, so I would like to do it, and I feel a lot of people will follow after that.”
To aspiring fighters, he says that success is possible if one has passion. “I believe with passion, there’s always a way if you want to succeed in anything, no matter how old. Obviously for sports, [if] you start at 30, you will have a disadvantage. But still it’s never too late to experience it. I would say try [MMA] if you’re curious; after a few competitions, you’ll know if it’s for you. You don’t want to be old and [have regrets]. Just commit to it and don’t look back.”
Want to see Amir in action? Watch him go head to head with Park Dae Sung live on ONE: Collision Course II this Friday, 25 December on ONE Championship’s YouTube page, or on the ONE Super App!