MMA: Lightweight title on the agenda for Amir Khan

Singaporean MMA fighter Amir Khan has a six-bout winning streak, but One Championship chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong said the result against Russia's Timofey Nastyukhin will shape his future.
Singaporean MMA fighter Amir Khan has a six-bout winning streak, but One Championship chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong said the result against Russia's Timofey Nastyukhin will shape his future.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Singaporean needs a convincing win against Nastyukhin to earn a shot at a world crown

Amir Khan does not just want to beat Russian Timofey Nastyukhin on Friday, he knows he needs to do it in style.

The 23-year-old mixed martial arts fighter faces Nastyukhin in One Championship's Quest For Gold event at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon.

Nothing less than a convincing stoppage will suffice, as Amir aims to prove he is ready for a crack at One's lightweight title.

Despite him being on a six-match winning streak, including a victory over 35-fight veteran Adrian Pang of Australia last November at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, One chairman and chief executive Chatri Sityodtong still believes there is more to come from the Singaporean.

"There's no question Amir is world champion material," said Chatri. "But realistically, I think he is still one or two fights away from a title shot. He hasn't faced any tough contenders in the lightweight division, other than Adrian.

"Let's see how he does against Timofey. If Amir can finish him, he will make a big statement."

Chatri added that he felt Amir's unanimous-decision victory over Pang was not up to par.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Being a world champ, you get opportunities too, be it in fighting or business (endorsements). And financially, champions are paid more and you're more financially secure.

AMIR KHAN, who will face Russia's Timofey Nastyukhin in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday.

"He won the fight because of his strategy, but his technique was not as crisp, and he was not as sharp or powerful as I know he can be.

"He knows he has to keep winning, and win impressively."

Amir has taken Chatri's advice and has moved on. He only has eyes for Nastyukhin now.

"A lot of people fear Timofey because he KO-ed (former One lightweight champion) Eduard Folayang, and then had that six-second knockout of (Australian) Rob Lisita," said Amir.

"But I feel like he and Adrian have almost the same style, other than the fact he is faster and younger. He has a good skill set but I feel he has a limited variety."

A convincing win over Nastyukhin would strengthen Amir's claims for a shot at the lightweight title, currently held by Australian-Vietnamese fighter Martin Nguyen.

Said Amir: "The title would mean everything to me. It means I am recognised for my skill, and it is proof the hard work I've put in over the years is not for nothing.

"Obviously, being a world champ, you get opportunities too, be it in fighting or business (endorsements). And financially, champions are paid more and you're more financially secure.

"But I also know the main thing is I have to be entertaining. If the fans want to see me fight, One will reward me with a good salary."

One does not disclose fighters' purses but its atomweight world champion Angela Lee makes a guaranteed six-figure sum per fight, excluding bonuses.Budding fighters who are not well known may get about $1,300 per fight.

Amir is convinced he will get his hands on Nguyen's belt.

"I'm confident I will get the opportunity I want, and I don't have any doubts I'll get the belt by the end of the year," he said.

"I promise, once I get through Nastyukhin, you'll see me in action at the Indoor Stadium (for One's next Singapore event on May 18)".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Lightweight title on the agenda for Amir'. Print Edition | Subscribe