Eric “The Natural” Kelly heads into ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES on 26 January on a mission to put his career back on track after a tough run of form.
The Filipino suffered back-to-back losses in 2016, as he was submitted by Malaysia’s Ev Ting at ONE: CLASH OF HEROES, then knocked out in 44 seconds by Narantungalag Jadambaa at ONE: DYNASTY OF CHAMPIONS.
The result didn’t get any better for Kelly when, after a one-year layoff, he returned to action at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS and was stopped in the final round by former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku.
However, against Boku there were signs of clear improvement, as Kelly dominated the early exchanges, repeatedly hurting Boku with his strikes and coming close to finishing the former champion in the opening round.
He even dropped the Japanese star in the second round, but was unable to get the win as the seasoned veteran produced a thrilling comeback to claim the victory.
“I did not have a good preparation for the bout, and I am taking it as a lesson,” said the 35-year-old, whose record now sits at 12 wins, 4 losses.
“I lacked discipline. I have accepted the fact that I am in a bad spot, but I am taking all those experiences as lessons and inspecting them for my future matches.”
Unusually for a martial artist competing on the big stage, Kelly isn’t affiliated with a big gym or fight team. Instead he prefers to train himself, and he’s continued in that vein ahead of his return against Rafael “Indio” Nunes at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in Manila.
“I started training as soon as I leaned I was going to compete,” he said.
“That was early in December. I increased my trainings, because as I said, I have learned from my previous matches.
“I still do my natural style of training — I train alone and visit different gyms. I want to show the world that I am a natural martial artist.”
After a run of disappointing results, Kelly is determined to right the ship with a win against Nunes on 26 January. The Brazilian has an impressive 10-1 record, including five wins by submission and four by TKO. But he hasn’t competed since June 2014, with injury and illness forcing him to take an extended spell on the sidelines.
Kelly isn’t viewing Nunes’ lengthy layoff as a major factor in their upcoming matchup, though. The Filipino says he’s just focused on one thing - victory.
“He has been away for a while, so I am not sure if he got stronger or improved,” he said.
“All I know is that I am training to achieve a win.”