Amir Khan is a big name in boxing, and now the star fighter has thrown his hat into the MMA ring (or cage, as it were), becoming part-owner of Super Fight League, a promotion based in India that he's looking to help expand worldwide, with a plan for a big 2016.
Khan spoke with The MMA Hour's Ariel Helwani about SFL, his boxing career, Mayweather-Berto, and more.
On his new role with Super Fight League
"I really believe MMA is a growing sport. I've joined a company, which is Super Fight League, based in India. But now we are going out to other countries around the world. We've got shows in the likes of Dubai and we'll hopefully secure a good deal in the States. I think in America is where you need to be, just like in my boxing career, it took me to America. I have all the big fights over there. When you start having big events in America, I think you become a global star yourself. That's what I want to do with SFL, being part owner of SFL, I want to give young, up and coming talent a chance. Let them showcase their skills on a big network. So hopefully that's what SFL is going to be. Hopefully in 2016 we're looking at doing 52 events around the world. I want to do 52 events around the world. So I'm going to be keeping myself very busy, including my own boxing events."
"Being British-Pakistani, I heard about this SFL. ... I'm a big fan of MMA. I've trained alongside th elikes of GSP, Andrei Arlovski and them guys, and I've always liked the concept. I met the CEO, had a chat with him, and we got it all done. I'm a part-owner now. Obviously we know how big UFC is and all the other companies like Bellator. But we're slowly getting there."
On whether or not he'd ever try MMA
"Boxing pays me well. I love boxing. It'd be very hard for me to be -- I don't think I'll ever do that. I don't think my mum would like to see me in a cage fighting. She hates me boxing let alone being in an MMA fight. So I don't think I'll ever do that, but you never know. I'm a born fighter. You just never know. I might just one day say, I'm going to go in the cage. You never know. ... I'm not going to close the door. I'm a born fighter. You just never know what can happen. I just love the grappling and everything that happens in cage fighting, the technique and everything. In a boxing fight, there's not much grappling, whereas in an MMA fight, there's a lot of floor work, a lot of grappling. And at the same time, I'm a good puncher myself, a good boxer."
On attending UFC 70 in 2007
"I was there in Manchester. I was set next to Dana White. I didn't have a clue then who Dana was or how big MMA would be. I was a little boy then, I was 18 years old. That was a show where Mike Tyson was there, as well. He was at the event. I was sat in between Mike Tyson and Dana White. I've got some pictures of that time. That was so many years ago and look how big MMA has grown since."
"Mayweather first said to me, Amir, prove yourself in the 147 pound divison. I fought three top ten guys and beat them convincingly. Now it comes up and I say, let's get the fight done. I really believe Mayweather thinks I would beat him, and he definitely is scared. I have the blueprint, I really know how to beat Floyd Mayweather. You need speed, movement, and I know people always go back to the Manny Pacquiao, because Manny Pacquiao has speed and power. But what Manny Pacquiao doesn't have that Amir Khan has is size. You need to be bigger than Mayweather, which I am. ... He's probably thinking, I've got one or two fights left in my career, do I really need a hard fight to finish? Also, he gave all the fight fans the fight they wanted, which is Manny Pacquiao. Obviously he beat Manny Pacquiao comfortably, but he fought Manny Pacquiao five years later. And at the same time Manny had lost a few fights and had been knocked out and is getting older. Mayweather is smart that way. That's one of the reasons he doesn't want to fight me. He's a businessman. He's afraid, he knows he'll get beat."
On whether he's given up on fighting Mayweather
"I just hope that it happens one day. I'd never like to say, what would've happened in Amir Khan would've fought Mayweather? I know deep down I'd beat the guy. That's always going to be in the back of my mind if the fight never happens. I'm sure there's a lot of boxing fans around the world who think the same thing. You've got people like Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Mike Tyson, all saying Floyd Mayweather should fight Amir Khan. If it's not Floyd Mayweather we have to go to plan B. Maybe a fight with Manny Pacquiao. There's talks about that fight happening somewhere in the UE. So we're just waiting on Al Haymon, see what he gets done. Being on the same team as Al Haymon I thought it would make it easier to get the Mayweather fight, but I just think he doesn't want to fight Amir Khan."
On matchmaking in boxing vs MMA
"We're talking about giving the fight fans they want to see. With boxing we're not getting that, because there's a lot of fighters avoiding each other. But with MMA I respect it because the best fight the best. That's what I love about it. The fight fans go to the fights because people like to see real fights. That's what MMA and what Super Fight League bring to the table. I wish it was like MMA. Maybe one day it will be. I just leave it to my adviser Al Haymon, hopefully he can get me the right fight."
On whether his history with Pacquiao and Roach will make that fight easier or harder to make
"Me and Manny Pacquiao used to have some good spars. 50-50, they used to be. Toward the end I got the better of Manny Pacquiao as I got older and a little bigger. Obviously me and Manny are former stablemates and sparring partners and friends. We had the same trainer, Freddie Roach, so we know of each other. But I've changed a lot in my style. Whereas Manny Pacquiao is still the same fighter as he was, because he's always been with Freddie Roach. Having a change of trainers is not a bad thing. Every trainer is different. It'd make the fight interesting, though. Both of us have big hearts, hand speed and skills. That'd be an amazing fight."
On his relationship with Freddie Roach
"I've always said nice things about him. Honestly, I've always been nice and said good things. I needed a change. With most fighters, MMA or boxing, sometimes a change makes you a better fighter. Makes you work on new things and new strategies. Bringing that love back to the sport again. Being with Virgil Hunter, I love boxing again. He's teaching me new things I never learned before. The hunger's coming back again. I was with Freddie Roach for five years, and I did learn a lot with him. He got me to become two-time world champion. I didn't walk away. I sat down with Freddie and said to him, I think I'm gonna move on. I respect what you've done for me. ... I've met him myself face to face and said maybe in the future we'll work together again, but at this time I want to make a change."
On Kell Brook
"I just made a statement in the UK that I'd like to fight Kell Brook. Hopefully that fight can be made next year in the summer at a stadium, maybe Wembley Stadium. Not this year, but next summer, when it'll be even bigger. ... The fight could be massive globally, but if Kell Brook's not going to go out there and fight big names -- I get a lot of criticism from people saying I'm scared of him. I'm not scared of him. I just want him to prove himself. If he does go out there and fight the big names like Maidana, Bradley, Pacquiao and he gets beat, it's only going to make the fight smaller. So let's just give him the benefit of the doubt that he's a good fighter."
On what may be next
"I've said I want to fight the big names. It could be Thurman, the Garcia rematch, Peterson rematch. A lot of fighters say they'll fight anyone, but when it comes down to it, they never want to sign the contract. I think I'm probably one of the only fighters out there who'll fight anyone in front of me. I'll just leave it to Al Haymon."
On Premier Boxing Champions
"I think PBC's good, yeah. I like the way you walk out to the ring, you're on your own, all the lights are on the fighter. ... I think PBC is different. It makes the fighter a bigger name, gives the fighter a value. I think it's a great idea."
On if his next fight will be with PBC
"Yeah, I think it will be. I'm with Al Haymon, so I think it probably will be. We want to grow PBC. One thing I love about it is the best are fighting the best. There's no hiding. There's one little group of fighters in PBC who have to fight each other. If you want to be a top name, you have to fight."
On if he asked Haymon why he didn't get Mayweather
"Al Haymon said to me, Mayweather's his own boss, he makes his decisions, he doesn't seem to want it. I think Mayweather knows Amir Khan would give him a good run for his money. ... He just doesn't seem interested. I bring a lot of the money. It must be he's afraid."
On whether Berto has a chance against Mayweather
"Berto's a friend of mine. We train together in the gym. I think anyone in a fight stands a chance. The best sometimes get beat, it takes that one punch. He does have a chance. I'm sure he's training hard."
"I'm going to be supporting him and helping him if I can. He can pull it off. Mayweather's getting old now. You just don't know when it's your time. It might happen to Mayweather. Berto has decent speed. He's a little shorter than Mayweather, but he's quick, he has decent power."