Locals pack punch on debuts

With her headphones blaring the rap metal sounds of Limp Bizkit, Kirstie Gannaway was in the zone as she walked to the One Fighting Championship ring at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night.

The 23-year-old Singaporean even ignored a kiss from boyfriend and fellow mixed martial arts fighter Herbert Burns, who was among her entourage.

In contrast, Amir Khan strutted with a black cowboy hat atop his head, beaming and waving to friends and fans among a buoyant crowd of over 10,000.

While the Republic's two home-grown talents had contrasting entrance styles, both walked away with the same results.

The hard-hitting duo shone on their home debuts, comprehensively beating their respective opponents inside the opening round.

Gannaway forced Malaysia's Adek Omar - also making her One FC bow - to tap out at the 2min 34sec mark of Round One, thanks to a well-executed triangle choke.

"I couldn't have asked for a better debut - I attacked her from the start and literally didn't give her a chance to breathe," said the peppy Gannaway, who was born to an Australian father and Singaporean mother.

Having undergone mental exercises over the past six weeks to learn the art of "zoning out", she said that her eyes - and arms - were focused solely on her wobbly opponent.

"I trained really hard to tune out, so if someone next to me was talking to me, I wouldn't even hear them," said Gannaway, who quit her job as a graphic artist in March to train full-time.

"It's extreme but it worked - now I'm going to enjoy some cakes and cookies, take a short holiday, and start training again."

Her fellow Evolve Gym fighter Khan was just as impressive - if not more brutal.

Two devastating elbows from the 19-year-old knocked out Pakistan's Waqar Umar just 1:25 into the fight, earning whoops from impressed spectators.

It was a triumph over adversity for the teenager, who suffers from Tourette's Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterised by unintentional movements and tics.

Being in the ring, he said, restricts his condition. And it showed as a dazed Waqar fell flat onto the canvas, later needing help to exit the scene.

"I couldn't afford to let anyone down so it's such a huge relief to not just win but also get a knockout in front of my family," said Khan, who picked up taekwondo at age five and then Muay Thai at 13, before training for four years in Louisiana.

"It was a great night for Singapore MMA," he said. "Let's build on this and show the world that we can produce top fighters."


This article was first published on Nov 8, 2014.
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