Eric Kelly was not expecting to be dragged into the toughest fight of his life when he accepted a matchup against an 0-1 Australian at URCC 22 last Saturday night. But as Phil Baroni is fond of saying, 'records are for DJs' and the Filipino found himself facing an absolute giant of a featherweight.
There was some confusion about the weights as Brad Terrey, who was late for the official weigh in, was announced as being 170 pounds while Kelly apparently came in right in the 149-pound limit, but the Australian's camp is adamant that despite his flight arriving late, he did come in at the correct weight.
He definitely rehydrated to the point where he weighed around 170 pounds on fight night and his superior size caused Kelly all kinds of problems, particularly when the Filipino's left eye started to swell shut midway through the first of two, ten minute rounds.
Kelly, who is in contention for the ONE FC title, found himself staring straight down the barrel of a disastrous defeat with the type of injury which would typically cause a fight to be stopped. He could have quit, he had a valid excuse to do so, but he battled on through the second of the two scheduled ten minute rounds.
Everyone felt Kelly had done enough to win a decision but the URCC judges are nothing if not impartial and, unable to see anything at all out of his left eye, he was sent back to fight a final five minute round after the scorecards could not separate the two.
The round did not start well for him as after a stuffed takedown he found himself underneath Terrey but Kelly somehow dug deep, reversed the position, mounted his opponent and then, after softening him up with some ground and pound, sunk in an armbar to finish the fight.
The record books will reflect the fact that this was the seventh submission win of Kelly's career and that he is now 9-0 and still unbeaten as a professional. There was nothing straightforward about this victory though as the 30 year old fought an enormous featherweight for the best part of 25 minutes, most of it with his right eye swelled completely shut.
He spoke to MMAmania.com about why even with one eye swelled completely shut he refused to quit and somehow came up with the ninth win of his career....
Did Brad Terrey ever actually make weight?
I don't know if Brad make weight* because I was waiting for him at the weigh in but Willy (URCC matchmaker) said they have delays to their flight and I should just go home. I wasn't happy about it but I just had to go home and eat and prepare myself so that I'll be ok to fight.
Did you consider pulling out of the fight when you saw how big he was?
When they told me that Brad was big in my mind I thought of it as a test for me. Whatever my opponent looks like I'll just accept the fight and just be ready to fight and it was important for me to learn how to overcome a challenge like this so 100 percent there was no doubt to fight.
How difficult was it facing such a big opponent?
It's really difficult to fight a bigger fighter than you because I couldn't even reach him with my punch but it's good because I learned about that kind of fight and next time if I have to fight an opponent who cuts a lot of weight like this I hope it will be easier because of that. I trained hard for this fight because I knew that Brad is bigger than me and I tried to prepare for whatever might happen going into the fight.
Could you see out of your right eye?
When my right eye was hit it looked like Brad had two bodies but I kept on just defending and waiting until the eye was ok but at the end of the first round I could not see out of it anymore. The doctor said we should stop but Chef Ro who is my manager and is like a second Father to me said I can still fight and in my heart I knew this was a big test for me and I could not give up and I had to carry on because this is my passion and my dream.
Do you have a broken orbital? And do you know how long it will take your eye to heal?
Tomorrow I will get the result of the scan of my right eye. I hope all is good, I don't know when it will recover.
How nervous did it make you going into this fight knowing that if you lost you could lose your shot at the ONE FC title?
I did not yet think about my next fight, I was just focussed on my fight with Brad Terrey. I was not nervous for myself but only for the Filipino fans because they came to cheer for me and if I lost it would be big disappointment for them. I knew I must win this fight for the Pinoy people to make them proud of me and that is why even though I could not see I knew I must not stop fighting.
Do you think your next fight will be for the ONE FC title?
I hope so. The ONE FC is the biggest in Asia and it is where all the best fighters fight so to be champion of the ONE FC is my goal. I am ready to fight for the belt.
How confident does it make you knowing that you survived such a difficult fight against someone who was so much bigger than you with only one working eye?
I'm so much happy in my self that I survive that kind of battle because I faced a lot of trials in this fight. Thank you to all people giving me this kind of experience, I'm happy because I learned from it. Thank you to Brad for showing a great sportsmanship. Thank you to all my friends,supporters, MMA fans for helping cheering me in my fight at URCC 'DEKADA.' Thank you [God] creator of all things. Thank you sir James. Peace to all
* He was announced as having weighed in at 170 pounds but according to his team he did make 149 pounds (URCC featherweight limit)