A-Venue Events Hall, Makati City, National Capital Region, Philippines
Win | SUB
There are two Kelly brothers, both good fighters; Eric Kelly is the wild one of the pair, or at least he used to be.
The older of the two, Eric was born on April 30, 1982, in Baguio, in the mountain province of Benguet, on the island of Luzon; the location is important since this place happens to be the epicenter of MMA in the Philippines, this is where most of the good fighters come from, it’s practically in the genes up there. With both parents working, his father a delivery driver for farming equipment and his mum the Barangay captain as well as a Sayote farmer, life was not insufferably poor and his family managed to “survive with legal ways of living.” However, it was not all smooth sailing.
He’s an affable, witty, cheerful dude, and, like many lively guys, he was always a naughty child; this often resulted in paternal hidings which are not for the faint-hearted – beatings with a stick which only ended when the stick was smashed to smithereens or being thrown against the wall were two he remembers well – until he got to high school age and to the point of being too big for his dad to physically handle. By this time, he was fighting in school all the time, for usually no purpose other than because he liked it and because his friends would put him up to it, although there was another reason; he was mesmerized by the films of Jean-Claude Van Damme, the ultimate tough guy’s tough guy, deeming it completely reasonable to skip school if there was a new Van Damme film on at the cinema.
It was within this stew of unrestrained and unauthorized action that he first got the taste for competitive fighting, taking part, and sometimes winning, in ‘tournaments’ called “King Nog Tar,” organized at school between the pupils which involved absolutely no rules apart from that only kicks were allowed; basically, kids in school uniform would match up and try to kick the living shit out of each other.
After high school he decided to take his new found love, kicking, further and joined a kickboxing gym, albeit for pretty glory-less reasons, namely to be able to fight better on the street, which he engaged in a fair old bit, a night of drinking usually ending up in a little street brawling. After a while, a friend at the gym advised him to take it more seriously and told him that if he trained properly he would be in line for a proper paid fight in the ring. Eric, of course, ignored him and, while training hard during the day, he carried on with his nighttime escapades as if nothing had changed.
His first fight altered his thinking; he won, by his own admission “with a lucky punch,” but he admits to feeling the pain and finally understanding why real fighters don’t go out drinking every night. He knuckled down and started taking it seriously, cutting down on the late nights, the booze and the pointless fights, recognizing that “there was no sense” in fighting on the streets.
This was at the start of the year 2000 and he quickly built up a good reputation, resulting in his coach and mentor sending him to Manila to the Wushu National Open Championship, where he won a credible 4 fights in 2 days, which in turn led to him being selected by the Philippine Sports Commission to represent his country on the international stage. For the next four years he lived in Manila and travelled all over Asia fighting in competitions, and he even achieved a bronze medal at the South East Asian Games, the region’s own Olympics.
Then, in 2004, disaster struck when he pulled his groin in sparring and the Sports Commission, in typical uncaring fashion, threw him out of the team and cut his allowance, at the time leaving him in tears and fearful of his future. His doctor gave him three options; he could have surgery, where there was a risk of too much tissue being cut and leaving him with less power in his legs, he could have a steroid injection, which could result in leaving him infertile, or he could go for the long-winded and most boring option, natural healing. This latter option is what he chose and he began the arduous process of self-rehabilitation, which mainly involved riding a bicycle up and down the hilly terrain of his hometown. In order to do something to bring in the money, he also started driving a taxi.
It took a whole year but he eventually got better (without any help from the Philippine Sports Commission, which is a bit of a disgrace on their part), while also showing an aptitude for business by starting and operating a Ukay-Ukay store selling 2nd hand clothes, mainly garments which came from the USA or Hong Kong. The problem was that his passion for fighting was too deep and it was a calling he could not resist; he went back to Manila, found work as a stuntman in the film industry, and started fighting in local competitions for minimal payment.
His friend then recommended him to the URCC and he had his first professional fight in 2009, winning by submission with a choke hold, and then giving up his stunt work and going on to win the next four straight fights to become the URCC Featherweight Champion. The organization’s quasi-partnership with the fledgling ONE FC led to him then fighting for the new organization, starting in 2011 in Singapore where he won by submission against Robert Buminaang.
Over the next few years he fought mainly for ONE FC while also taking in a couple of fights for the URCC organization, and mainly winning, mainly by submission; this is a man who likes to go to ground. During that time he also ventured abroad, having being offered an opportunity to coach at a gym in Malaysia, where he was based between 2012-14.
He is currently in negotiations with ONE FC for a new contract and he insists that, while his dream still remains the same, to become the “MMA champion of the world,” he has learnt from his mistakes, namely to not accept fights when he’s injured (which he has done in the past). And, true to his entrepreneurial spirit, he is also working through a degree in Business Administration and Operation Management on the side.
However, it is the fighting that is his passion, and this sociable, funny and spirited guy, an Igorot and very proud of it, is now on full charge to the top.
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