Monday, February 2, 2015

Igorot Mixed Martial Artist Eric Kelly Mulls About Retirement And His Dream Of Fighting In The UFC

At 32 years old, Eric Kelly's career as a mixed martial artist is getting closer to its last stages. He is currently at the top of his game being the number one contender for the ONE Championship's featherweight belt. He had the chance to fight for the belt last year not only once but twice but due to unfavorable circumstances, these championship bouts did not push through.

It's now 2015. According to Kelly, his contract with the ONE Championship will expire this February. In an interview with the MMA blog Dojo Drifter, Kelly disclosed that he has no problem renewing his contract with ONE Championship if the cards are right. However, the Baguio-based fighter added that renewing his contract is not the only option on the table. He's been considering hanging up the gloves, he uttered.

To a lot of fans, the idea of Kelly retiring can be shocking. Why now when he is on the brink (maybe a fight or two away) of snagging the ONE Championship's featherweight belt? Fortunately, there's one thing that's stopping Kelly from calling it a day. And that is his dream of fighting under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner.

"Sa totoo lang, binabalak ko na nga mag-retire, pero iniisip ko pa ang UFC at hindi makukumpleto ang MMA career ko kung hindi ako lumaban sa UFC," Kelly told the Dojo Drifter. It's a believable proposition. Ask any MMA practitioner and he or she will say that the ultimate goal is to step into the Octagon and fight in the biggest and brightest stage for professional combatants. It's every fighter's dream to at least taste the UFC spirit.
Eric Kelly in one of his fights in the ONE Championship. Photo by ONE FC.
It so happens that the UFC just recently announced that it will be coming to the Philippines this coming May. Dubbed UFC Fight Night Manila, the card is expected to feature Filipino and other Asian fighters. From an observable distance, this seems to be the right moment for Kelly to finally make his case in the UFC. There's a dearth of Filipino fighters who might appear in the Manila card. Only a few names come to mind - Mark Munoz, Chris Cariaso, Mark Eddiva, Roldan Sangcha-an, and probably Dave Galera.

As was mentioned above, Kelly's contract with the ONE Championship will expire this February. This gives him two options. One, he can renew his contract and possibly fight for the featherweight belt which is currently held by Mongolia's Jadamba Narantungalag. And two, he can let his contract expire, sign with the UFC, and fulfill his dream of fighting inside the Octagon.

Of course, for the latter to happen, all pieces of the puzzle need to be in place. The UFC has to reach out to him. And the ONE Championship has to let him go.

The next few months will be very interesting in the career of Kelly. Will he renew his contract for the chance to fight for a championship belt? Or will he pursue the dream of fighting in the UFC? As fans, we have nothing else to do but wait.