Eric Kelly on his opponent Ev Ting, growth as a fighter, and MMA politicking
When in Malaysia, one of the best homegrown Filipino fighters is set to headline tonight’s ONE Championship event, dubbed “Clash of Heroes”, at the Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Eric Kelly is 12-1 in his mixed martial arts career and holds notable wins against former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver and Singaporean MMA pioneer Mitch Chilson.
Kelly returns for his second fight since taking a 15-month hiatus due to contractual disputes with Asia’s largest MMA promotion ONE Championship.
Returning to the ONE Championship cage last October against Hiroshige Tanaka in “ONE: Tigers of Asia”, Kelly picked up a controversial unanimous decision victory after the Japanese rallied in the second and third rounds to negate the dominant first-round performance submitted by Eric. Asked about his performance, Kelly candidly claimed that age and ring rust may have played a factor in his last outing. “Sa palagay ko dahil siguro na-stuck ako ng isang taon na walang laban, kaya po siguro hindi na-excite ng husto ang mga fans. At siguro dahil sa nadadagdagan narin ang edad natin, (I think the reason why I was not able to give the fans the excitement they hoped for was because I was not able to fight for more than a year. The fact that we’re getting older may have contributed to that as well,)“ said Kelly.
Though the dispute shaved considerable time off what typically is an MMA fighter’s relatively short professional tenure, the 33-year-old Kelly clarifies that he plans on staying with the promotion after his main-event bout with Malaysian-Kiwi Ev Ting. ,“I have more coming fights with ONE,” he confirmed. As to rumors that other promotions are courting the Filipino stalwart, Kelly disclosed, “Sa ngayon, wala pang [ibang promotion] na tumatawag dahil alam nilang nasa ONE pa ako. (As of now, no other promotion has contacted me yet as they know I am still with ONE.)”
Setting his sights on his fight with Ting, Kelly assures us that he is proactively working to bridge the gap between the younger, more dynamic fighter that took the Asian MMA world by storm and the older, wiser version of himself. “Sa pagtanda ko, lumalaki ang kaalaman ko sa pakikipaglaban sa MMA kahit matagal na wala akong laban. (As I grow older, my knowledge of MMA deepens even though I haven’t fought in a while.) For me, [I have to focus on my having] more knowledge in fighting than strength. Kasi nga po, tumatanda na tayo. Yung dating lakas, medyo nabawasan na. (Growing old, I feel that the strength that I had in my youth has waned.)”
Fighting in enemy territory against an opponent who has won four of his last five bouts, Kelly is resolute that he still has what it takes to best the streaking Malaysian come fight night. “I don’t care if we fight here in his town. I come to fight. This is my job, and I’m used to [fighting as an underdog]. Ev is a good fighter. Just like me, he has a dream. But I’m not yet done in my career.”
Aside from Kelly, two other Filipino fighters in Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio and Eduard “Landslide” Folayang will compete in the Malaysia card. Log on to www.ONEFC.com for more event details. Visit MMA Philippines for more MMA content.