Singapore is firmly established as the epicentre of Asian mixed martial arts, and the popularity of the sport has skyrocketed there in the past three years, with ONE FC events regularly attracting a sold-out audience in the country’s largest indoor arena.
While Singaporean fight fans have been privileged to witness some of the world’s best fighters in action, such as American Ben Askren, Shinya Aoki of Japan and Brazil’s Bibiano Fernandes, a local hero capable of competing at the upper echelons of cage fighting has yet to emerge.
Singapore has not traditionally been a place that produces fighters, but it is now home to a camp which is widely regarded as the best in the region. Evolve MMA is a place where aspiring fighters have the opportunity to work with some of the most decorated trainers on the planet.
Two Singaporeans from the Evolve MMA fight team will be in action at ONE FC: Rise of the Kingdom next Friday night and both will be hoping to take the next step on a journey that they hope will one day end with a world title.
Amir Khan will be making his professional debut at the tender age of 19, while his teammate Radeem Rahman is eight years his senior and will be stepping inside the ONE FC cage for the third time.
Evolve MMA head coach Heath Sims has high hopes for both fighters.
“Amir is still a very young fighter with a bright future ahead of him. In the six months he has been training full time with the Evolve fight team, I have seen his skills improve, while Radeem is still in the early stages of his career and is doing all the right things,” Sims told the Post.
With MMA making the back pages of the newspapers in the Lion City almost every week, there is a lot of pressure on local fighters to perform, but Sims is confident that Khan and Rahman can live up to these lofty expectations.
“The entire Evolve fight team trains hard full-time all year round, and we expect fighters to continually improve in all areas of MMA. The pressure is the same for everyone because every fight is important and every fight is an opportunity to show your growth,” the coach said.
Neither of these Singaporeans has been handed an easy fight at Rise of the Kingdom, with Rahman set to take on top Taiwanese bantamweight Sung Ming Yen (3-1), while Khan is going up against a much more experienced Malaysian in the shape of Jian Kai Chee (4-4).
Rahman has a record of 2-0 and starred at the inaugural ONE FC event in September 2011. However, he suffered a series of injury setbacks and didn’t fight for again until earlier this year. He says he is expecting a tough test against Yen.
“I think he will be the best opponent I have ever faced, as this time round, my ground game will be tested, but I don’t feel nervous at all,” Rahman said.
“Instead, I feel excited, as I get to represent Singapore in another country. I hope I can fly the Singapore flag high.”
After competing twice at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, this will be Rahman’s first fight on foreign soil, but at least he will be in familiar surroundings, having tested himself inside the ONE FC cage on two separate occasions.
For Khan, who had a successful career as an amateur in the US, this will be his professional debut and his first time fighting in Asia, but he says it is a step up that he is well prepared for.
“I have been waiting for this opportunity since venturing into the MMA scene, but I get to train every day with world champions from different disciplines and this has helped me to become a well rounded fighter,” he told the Post.
The Rise of the Kingdom event will make history by being the first time a major international promotion has ever held a card in Cambodia, and if Khan or Rahman can succeed in fulfilling their ambitions, it might also be remembered as a crucial step on their journey to becoming an MMA champion.