Amir ready for title bid as he gets long-awaited chance

Amir Khan will get his first title shot next month in Manila against Filipino Eduard Folayang.
Amir Khan will get his first title shot next month in Manila against Filipino Eduard Folayang.

For almost a year, Amir Khan has claimed that he is ready for a crack at One Championship's lightweight world title and the Singaporean mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter will finally get his chance in the Philippines next month.

One chairman and chief executive officer Chatri Sityodtong announced in a Facebook post yesterday that the 23-year-old will take on Filipino Eduard Folayang for the organisation's lightweight (up to 77kg) belt at its Conquest of Champions event at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Nov 23.

The title is vacant after Vietnamese-Australian fighter Martin Nguyen, the previous holder since last November, relinquished it last week due to a major knee injury.

"It feels good to get the shot, this is what I've been working for. I feel I'm ready," Amir told The Straits Times yesterday.

He had publicly stated his desire for a chance at the title after posting a six-fight winning streak from November 2015 to November 2017.

But he was repeatedly told by Chatri to impress against fellow title contenders. Amir, whose MMA record stands at 11 wins and three losses, was stopped in his tracks by Russia's Timofey Nastyukhin in February, but then bounced back to post a technical knockout win over South Korean Lee Sung-jong in May, before submitting Filipino Honorio Banario last month.

In Folayang, though, he faces arguably the biggest test of his burgeoning career. The 34-year-old, who has a record of 20 wins and six losses, is a former One lightweight world champion, winning the title in November 2016 and holding it till his loss to Nguyen.

Folayang will also enjoy the support of a 15,000-strong home crowd for the fight. But Amir, who said his rival's mental toughness is his greatest attribute, insists he is not fazed.

"I guess fighting in his home town makes it look like the belt is set up for him," he said. "I do well when I am challenged. He is a former champion, so maybe it's right I have to be the one to go over there and beat him in front of his home fans."

Singapore's only world champion in One Championship is reigning women's atomweight (up to 52kg) champion Angela Lee.

Lee, born in Vancouver to a Chinese Singaporean father and a Korean mother, and currently based in Hawaii, is aiming to become One's first two-division women's champion when she takes on China's Xiong Jingnan for the strawweight (up to 57kg) title at the Heart of The Lion event at the Indoor Stadium on Nov 9.

On the possibility of being Singapore's first "home-grown" MMA world champion - as put by Chatri in his post - Amir said: "I'm glad I got this opportunity. I want to win so I can prove that Singapore can produce world champions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2018, with the headline 'Amir ready for title bid as he gets long-awaited chance'. Subscribe