SINGAPORE - All it took was one elbow strike to make Amir Khan feel like himself again.
After carving out a reputation as one of One Championship's top knockout artists - 10 of his first 11 wins all came through stoppages - the Singaporean mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter's steady rise was halted after an unsuccessful lightweight title fight in Nov 2018.
That defeat was followed by two more losses, by submission and knockout. Amir stopped the skid with a slim decision win in his next bout, but then slipped to another submission loss after that.
But as he prepares to face South Korean fighter Park Dae-sung at One's Collision Course II event to be broadcast on Friday night (Dec 25), the 26-year-old feels he has finally rediscovered his mojo.
Part of that is down to an impressive first-round knockout finish of Indian fighter Rahul Raju with a deft elbow at One's Reign of Dynasties event on Oct 9.
When asked how it felt to post a first knockout since September 2018, Amir said with a satisfied smile: "It was a good feeling. I knew I had it in me, but it just did not arrive in my previous fights… Now, I want more."
His trainer, former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight Siyar Bahadurzada, chipped in: "If it wasn't that kind of finish, it doesn't feel right."
Bahadurzada is another reason why Amir feels confident heading into his fight against Park. The Dutchman, who in January became the head trainer at Evolve MMA which Amir is a part of, has reinvigorated him as he works towards One's lightweight title.
Said Amir: "We're finding my personality as a fighter, and I feel like pieces of the puzzle are coming together. There are exciting times to come ahead for me for sure."
Bahadurzada, 36, said that his first impression of the Singaporean was that he did not lack any technical ability.
"Amir knows how to strike, wrestle, grapple at a high level," he said.
"What he lacked was leadership, somebody to (guide) and make the environment right for him."
The trainer added that after analysing Amir's past fights, he found that the latter did not utilise his full arsenal in fights often enough, and so focused on making him train "more efficiently".
"It's beginning to pay off. The Amir today is not the same Amir from six months ago," said Bahadurzada.
"We'll see a much more mature Amir (against Park). Focused, dedicated, sharper, stronger."
These attributes, he added, are what makes him confident Amir has what it takes to capture the lightweight title if he mounts a challenge.
"He's been around the game for a long time, he's tasted the best in the division and he knows how it feels," said Bahadurzada, who was also the middleweight champion in respected Japanese organisation Shooto.
"Getting back to the top is not as difficult as he did it the first time and this time, he'll know what to do to succeed."