Filipino fighters Eric Kelly and Honorio Banario (pictured) are set to battle for the world featherweight title in the main event of ONE FC: 'Return of Warriors' at the 16,000 capacity Putra Indoor Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 2, 2013.
It will be the second time that Asia's biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion had hosted an event in Malaysia following on from ONE FC: 'Destiny of Warriors' which was held at the slightly smaller Stadium Negara in June. As well as announcing the first five fights on the card it was also revealed that Malaysian prepaid mobile operator Tune Talk had come on board as a major sponsor.
Kelly is the reigning URCC lightweight champion and was last seen demolishing Andrew Benibe at ONE FC:'Pride of a Nation,' winning by third round TKO at the end of a very one sided fight. On the same night Kelly stopped Jens Pulver in the second round of their fight and afterwards it was revealed that both would be fighting for the ONE FC title (see photo).
Kelly, who is based at Muayfit in Kuala Lumpur, has a perfect professional record of 9-0 and also holds ONE FC wins over Mitch Chilson and Bae Young Kwon. Banario's record stands at 7-1 with the sole loss of his career coming on his featherweight debut when he was submitted by Kwon.
Both hold URCC belts at different weights, Kelly is the featherweight (149 pound) champion whereas Banario has the strap at lightweight (159 pounds). They have both been campaigning at 145 pounds in recent months and both hail from Baguio and have trained together in the past.
Although it is rare for Filipinos to fight each other in international events Kelly says that he is willing to do whatever it takes to be the first ever ONE FC featherweight world champion.
"Honorio is my friend and we have trained together but now he is standing between me and my dream of being ONE FC champion. Because we have done some sparring I know his style and he knows mine and we both know that this fight will be a striking battle and a stand up war."
The rest of the fights announced today all featured local fighters and included details of a four man featherweight tournament which will see the winner crowned by ONE FC as the first ever Malaysian national champion. Peter Davis, who put in one of the performances of the night when he stopped Singaporean Kim Hock in June, returns to the ONE FC cage to take on Indonesian Leo Krishna.
Krishna is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) blue belt who has enjoyed success in a number of grappling tournaments in the region and has a perfect professional record of 2-0. Davis is 5-1 and already holds one win over an Indonesian opponent having submitted Ngabdi Mulyadi in Jakarta last February.
The four fighters competing to be the Malaysian featherweight champion are Melvin Yeoh, Raymond Tiew, Jian Kai Chee and Aj Mansour. Yeoh, 6-1, only signed with ONE FC earlier this month and will be facing Tiew, 4-2, an opponent he has already beaten once back in Sept. 2011.
Tiew started brightly against Indra Senduk on his ONE FC debut in February but the fight was stopped when he suffered a knee injury and he has been out of action ever since. The other semifinal pits together two fighters with a point to prove as Chee, 3-4, a Muay Thai specialist who is dropping down in weight and Mansour, 1-2 and a veteran grappler, look to get their careers back on track with a win.
The final match up is in the flyweight division and Gianni Subba will look to build on his impressive ONE FC debut when he takes on fellow Malaysian Saiful Merican. Subba is only 20 years old and scored a spectacular soccer kick KO win over Bruce Loh in Singapore but will want to polish up his striking even more before taking on Merican who is a veteran of 100 Muay Thai fights and has won numerous belts.
More fights are expected to be announced over the next few weeks with the card also set to feature the semifinals of a four man flyweight tournament which will see the winner crowned the ONE FC Flyweight World Champion.
ONE FC: 'Return of Warriors, Putra Indoor Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, February 2nd
Honorio Banario vs Eric Kelly (for ONE FC World Featherweight title)
Peter Davis vs Leo Krishna (155 lbs)
Gianni Subba vs Saiful Merican (125 lbs)
Melvin Yeoh vs Raymond Tiew (winner gets to fight for Malaysian 145 lbs title)
AJ Vaa vs Jian Kai Chee (winner gets to fight for Malaysian 145 lbs title)