As a man who prides himself on his constant evolution as a mixed martial artist, nothing makes Amir Khan happier than when he can show his full range of skills.
Despite owning a resume that boasts a long list of jaw-dropping knockouts, Khan is usually his own harshest critic. The Singaporean star is quick to pick holes in his performances and find any flaws – no matter how small.
However, his most recent win over Honorio “The Rock” Banario was different.
Not only did that match-up earn him a ONE Lightweight World Title shot against Eduard “Landslide” Folayang at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, the 24-year-old hails it as the most as the most complete performance of his career.
“I’m a really big critic of all my fights because I always feel I didn’t perform to my potential, but I will say the last fight [was my best] because Banario is a tough fight,” Khan says.
“Everybody was expecting him to win and I just made it look easy, so I feel like that was my most satisfying performance.”
Though he is best known for his heavy hands and powerful kicks, the Evolve representative demonstrated that he can be just as dangerous with his grappling.
That, he explains, is a product of his hard work in the gym under the tutelage of the gym’s new head coach, Eduardo Pamplona.
“I never trained so hard in my life until Eduardo started training me,” he reveals.
“We only trained for one month, but he pushed me like crazy, and he made me drill the right stuff. We were drilling everything in the fight game to get me ready, and we continued that into the fight.”
Throughout his career, Khan has always believed he would win his contests, but his confidence was at an all-time high ahead of his bout with the former ONE Featherweight World Champion.
He and Pamplona had left no stone unturned in their efforts to construct the perfect game plan and get the job done in style.
“We saw what Banario was, and what we could capitalize on. I was 100-percent confident,” Khan says.
“I knew I was going to get a win and I had no trace of doubt in my mind. Because of all my hard work in training, it made me even more confident.
“We trained in every scenario, we covered all the bases, we didn’t leave anything out.
“I was thinking if the fight goes anywhere – if the fight stays on the feet, or if I was on the ground, or on my back, or he was on his back – I could finish him anywhere. I knew no matter what position we were in, I could finish him.”
Though Khan went into the cage with a solution for any problem, in the end, everything went exactly the way he had planned.
“I got the double-leg [takedown], and I’d been working this transition from the double-leg – I would switch, he would try to defend, and I would take his back,” Khan explains.
“Once he was on his back, I knew Banario liked to get on all fours, and he would expose his chin, or he would just chill there.
“I knew the moment he chilled out, I just had to put my hooks in and go for the choke. Once I transitioned, I secured my position, and I got the choke.”
The contest came to an end when “The Rock” tapped to Khan’s rear-naked choke at the 4:34 mark of the very first round.
Within a month, the Singaporean star found out his victory had earned him a shot at the vacant ONE Lightweight World Title on Friday, 23 November at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
However, on the night of his triumph, Khan was not thinking that far ahead. He was just satisfied that all his hard work had paid off.
“In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about the title shot. I was only focused on that fight,” Khan says.
“The moment I win, I just think about winning. I don’t really think about the future or the past, I just think about the present.”
With that mindset and the life-changing help of his new coach, he will be just as confident of victory against Folayang, and his ability to bring the ONE Lightweight World Title back home with him.