Amir Khan’s MMA ambitions?

Amir Khan
Action Images/Andrew Couldridge
Martin Potter (@theboxingbrain) looks at whether boxer Amir Khan’s comments about competing in Mixed Martial Arts are realistic

BRITISH boxing star Amir Khan has often been accused of overlooking opponents ahead of upcoming bouts and talking about potential future fights. Prior to his brave middleweight title challenge against lineal belt holder Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Khan took this a step further and talked about fighting in a different sport altogether, swapping boxing for MMA. So could this realistically happen or was this just Khan thinking aloud?

Amir Khan is already legitimately involved in MMA, but from a business perspective as opposed to as a fighter – he is involved with a Pakistani MMA promotion and has sat cage side at events. Therefore there is a genuine link. It is this link and close up viewing of MMA that prompted Khan to say that he thought about getting in the cage, that he could do so in the future and that he saw holes in the fighters games that he felt he could exploit. Khan also mentioned how a fighter like Mike Tyson could have done immense damage in four ounce gloves and made vague reference to having done some MMA training (he didn’t elaborate on what this training was).

Despite all of the above, I am extremely sceptical that Amir Khan would ever compete in professional MMA or that, if he did, he would be successful at an elite level. Khan is undoubtedly a world class boxer with bags of talent but ultimately MMA is a different sport requiring a different skill set. There is also the fact that as a boxer Amir Khan can earn far more than he could in MMA (although as a one off MMA attraction, the Bolton speedster could certainly pick up a hefty pay cheque).

Modern MMA fighters are extremely well-rounded. They can box, they can wrestle, they can perform high level kick boxing techniques and all MMA fighters at elite level have a strong Jiu Jitsu based ground game. Whilst it is true that many started in a single discipline, as Khan has with boxing, they have then spent years honing the other disciplines. The days of a top level striker just learning how to prevent a take down and little else are over in the upper echelons of mixed martial arts. Aside from his boxing skills, what else would Khan bring to the table?

Former female multiple boxing world champion Holly Holm is an example of a top tier boxer who successfully moved to the smaller gloves. Holm however had trained in kickboxing for as long as she had in boxing and was based for years at an MMA focused gym. It is fair to say that she already had years of MMA knowledge before she ever fought professionally in the cage and misleading to claim it was solely her elite boxing skills that enabled her to capture the women’s UFC title (as some in mainstream boxing have done). Amir Khan simply does not have those years of grounding in other forms of fighting.

I have no doubt that an athlete as gifted as Khan could pick up new fighting techniques quickly but meshing them together and eradicating boxing habits built up over years of repetitive training drills would be a huge challenge.

So am I suggesting that a top MMA fighter would always beat a boxer or that MMA is better? Not exactly. Firstly no MMA fighter will ever develop boxing skills to rival a world champion boxer (unless, like Holm, they were already a world champion boxer). However, unless the boxer has trained for years in other aspects of martial arts (again like Holm), they would only ever have a punchers chance in a mixed martial arts fight. If Amir Khan did venture inside the cage and was able to land clean punches then he would win; the chances of a seasoned, elite level mixed martial artist allowing him to do this are slim. The likelihood is that Khan, much like James Toney against Randy Couture, would get taken down quickly before having the chance to throw a punch and would be submitted.

Boxing and MMA are two different sports. Amir Khan would be a big money attraction and a bring star power and a curiosity factor to MMA but if he has any sense he should stick to doing what he does best and box.

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