ONE Championship: Eric Kelly focused on improving himself to prepare for upcoming fight
Santino Honasan on Apr 11, 2019 11:33 AM
"Sobrang napaka-importanteng laban nito para sa akin, kasi dito naka-salalay yung fighting career ko, kasi ito yung gusto kong gawin muna sa ngayon, kasi kaya ko pa, kaya sobrang napaka-importanteng laban nito para sa akin," - Eric Kelly
Early in his career, Eric "The Natural" Kelly had the potential to become one of the best homegrown Filipino mixed martial artists ever.
The Baguio City native was an undefeated prospect when he became one of the pioneer athletes of ONE Championship back in 2011, and during the early part of his run with the Singapore-based promotion, Kelly only raised his stock even more with wins over Mitch Chilson and former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver.
Kelly would even compete for the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Championship, opposite fellow Baguio-native Honorio Banario, who would go on to hand Kelly his first loss in MMA.
Nowadays, Kelly's dominance in ONE Championship - and in mixed martial arts in general - feels like a distant memory.
After losing to Banario in his bid to become a world champion, Kelly would go on a three-fight winning streak, followed by a massive losing streak that now stands at five-straight bouts, with his last win coming way back in late 2015.
Now, Kelly finds himself fighting for his fighting career, as he faces South Korea's Kwon Won Il at ONE: Roots of Honor in Manila on Friday, April 12th.
The 36-year old knows full well that another loss could cost him his spot in ONE Championship.
"Sobrang napaka-importanteng laban nito para sa akin, kasi dito naka-salalay yung fighting career ko, kasi ito yung gusto kong gawin muna sa ngayon, kasi kaya ko pa, kaya sobrang napaka-importanteng laban nito para sa akin," Kelly shared during the official kick off press conference, Tuesday afternoon.
"More than 100 percent [motivated ako] kasi lalong-lalo dito pa sa atin, sa ‘Pinas," he added.
To prepare himself for his upcoming bout, Kelly did not just work on a specific technique or a certain aspect of his game, but rather his entire self. Now training full-time in Dubai, Kelly says that the change in scenery has helped him refocus on what's really important.
"Yung sarili ko yung inayos ko, kasi nung nandito ako sa ‘Pinas, nawalan ako ng focus, kaya naka-five straight losses ako. Ngayon, at least nag-iba ako ng background, kahit papaano naka-focus ako sa training."
Kelly has always been a nomad when it comes to his mixed martial arts training, meaning that he doesn't necessarily have a main gym and a head coach to answer to, unlike say, his younger brother Edward, who's part of the famed Team Lakay stable under head coach Mark Sangiao.
Kelly admits that external factors may have had a hand in his losing stretch.
"Nawalan ako ng focus nung nandito ako sa ‘Pinas, yung mga bisyo, dun ako napadpad, nakalimutan ko yung career ko, lumalaban na walang ensayo, sobrang nawalan ako ng focus sa career ko."
"Ngayon, nag-iba ako ng background, lumayo muna ako sa bansa natin, 100 percent ako na lalaban sa cage ngayon," he continued.
On Friday night, the stakes could not be any higher for Kelly, who hopes to inject some new life into his MMA career.
"Ngayon, pipilitin ko pa na babalik, titignan ko, kasi siyempre, sa ngayon, siyempre, lahat naman ng athlete ngayon, nagte-training para lumaban. Sa ngayon, ipipilit ko na ibalik yung sarili ko sa mixed martial arts," Kelly said.
Catch ONE: Roots of Honor on Friday, April 12th at 8:30 PM LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23 and on the iWant app!