Amir Khan: MMA Fighter

Every other second, his head snaps to the side; his right eye and mouth squeeze shut.

Then the twitches give way to a powerful, lightning-quick barrage of punches and kicks.

Slightly more than two minutes later, it’s all over, with Singaporean Amir Khan knocking out his hapless opponent on his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut.

While the 19-year-old’s impressive skills captured the attention, so did his repeated, uncontrollable tics, with some even wondering if he was having muscle spasms.

What Amir has is Tourette syndrome – a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements.

U.S. footballer Tim Howard is the most famous athlete with the condition, which recently came into the spotlight after the ex-Manchester United goalkeeper pulled off a record-breaking 16 saves at the 2014 World Cup.

What’s clear, however, is that Amir doesn’t suffer from it.

“Maybe it helps because it’ll distract my opponent and he can’t read my eyes. That’s an advantage,” the One Fighting Championship (ONE FC) signee joked, as he spoke to Yahoo ahead of his next bout against Pakistani Waqar Umar on 7 November at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Turning serious, Amir said: “I don’t mind living with it, it doesn’t really affect me. But I’m trying to control it every day, slowly, and as I get older hopefully it’ll reduce.”

He’s had Tourette’s since childhood, but it never landed him in any serious trouble – perhaps because one would think twice about trying to bully a teenage Muay Thai champion.

Looking at his lean, muscled physique now, it’s hard to believe Amir’s first taste of competition was in golf, a sport his dad Ansari coaches in.

But it was also father who stumbled upon son, then 13, sparring with friends at a void deck. Instead of pulling on Amir’s ear, he encouraged him to take up Muay Thai.

A year later, as a Secondary Two student, Amir found himself fighting in Thailand.

Another year later, he was back in the Land of Smiles, battling older opponents for a championship belt – which he won.

The talented lad then made the natural progression to MMA, choosing to spend the next three years in the United States training, studying and biding his time to emerge on the global stage.

Asked if he ever dreamt of fighting for American-based household name Ultimate Fighting Championship, Amir said, “I got an opportunity for ONE FC, and I think it’s going to be the next greatest thing, so I took it.”

“I’m not really stuck on ‘Oh, I need to be in the UFC’,” he added. “I’ll take whichever opportunity comes first.”

In Singapore, Amir trains twice a day, full-time, with the fêted Evolve Fight Team – a step up from six sessions a week when he was in the U.S.

Winning his first big battle in dominant fashion was evidence of the payoff, but it was also an impressive display of calm and composure belying his youth.

“I’ve been through a lot of fights,” Amir explained.

He also credited his father for “doing everything” from planning his diet to providing moral support to doling out advice.

“I think winning or losing doesn’t matter, as long as I do my thing in the cage,” Amir said. “I don’t really worry about being embarrassed; I don’t really care about the outcome – as long as I know I train hard.”

Training, practicing – the constant quest for personal improvement seems to be Amir’s goal, whether it comes to his fighting profession or medical condition.

He faces a potential roadblock when Singapore’s mandatory two-year National Service comes knocking, but Amir is not running away from his duties.

“I plan to serve the nation. I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he affirmed. “I just hope I’ll still be able to train every day, if not at night, or else I’ll train harder over the weekends. As long as I’m still training, it’s fine.”

Tickets for ONE FC: BATTLE OF LIONS on 7 November in Singapore are on sale now at Sports Hub Tix ( Ticket categories begin with the full Red Carpet and cageside experience for VIPs at S$378 followed by Arena S$158, Terrace S$58 and Balcony S$38. Prices exclude ticketing fee.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *