ONE: "Defending Honor" is set for the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Nov. 11 and looks to be one of the promotion’s strongest cards of the year. Shinya Aoki is facing Eduard Folayang in the main event, but there is also likely to be a strong local presence.
Representing the host nation is Amir Khan and the 21 year old will be fighting in this venue for the fifth time. He’s established himself as something of a local favorite and is determined to put his mark on what has already been a very good sporting year for Singapore.
"Angela Lee showed that Singapore has world class fighters and Joseph Schooling (Olympic gold medal winner) showed that athletes in Singapore can reach a world class standard. I believe there are many more titles and medals to come."
Khan was born and bred in Singapore and is currently on national service, something which all young men are required to do. However he’s been training hard in preparation for a fight with Belgian’s Samir Mrabet.
"I am still in the national service, I have just under nine months left but I have been working with various members of the Evolve Fight Team such as Eddie Ng, Olympic Wrestler Heath Sims, Muay Thai World Champion Sagetdao Petpayathai, Benedict Ang and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion Bruno Pucci."
Mrabet is the owner of Monarchy MMA in Kuala Lumpur which has emerged as one of the top camps in Malaysia. He brings a perfect 4-0 record to the table as well as a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Khan knows he will be going up against a seasoned grappler.
"I have trained more specifically for this fight because I kind of know what he is going to do but I'm well prepared for anything. I train with our BJJ world champions at Evolve MMA every day so I'm more than confident in my grappling."
Both men have moved up a division after starting their ONE Championship careers as featherweights. Khan and Mrabet are very similar in size but, whereas they would previously have been cutting around 10 lbs in a sauna, both can now compete at their normal walking weight.
Khan has no intention of returning to the featherweight division and is happy that his employers have consigned extreme weight cutting to the dustbin of history. "I’m fighting at lightweight now. The new rules are definitely at my advantage and I feel stronger and faster than ever at my natural weight. I’m still young and I think it’s better for my body in the long run."
He’s only been the distance once in his professional career and ended up on the wrong side of a split decision. It was an important learning experience and altered Khan’s attitude and approach to future fights.
"My last lost definitely transformed me into a better fighter. I've changed my approach to fighting and turned into a better fighter: skill wise, physically and mentally."
Khan was on the card when Angela Lee captured the inaugural ONE Championship atomweight title. The Singaporean / Korean star received a raucous reception from a crowd that had never previously had the opportunity to see a title challenger representing their nation.
Khan could hear the cheers as Lee came from behind to capture the belt and says that seeing such passionate support from the Singaporean fans is a major source of inspiration.
"It is really exciting because it shows that more and more people in Singapore are becoming aware of the sport of MMA and coming out to support the fighters."
Those people will have another opportunity to do that in November and Khan is hoping he can give them something to celebrate.