Danielle Kelly is ready to put it all on the line for the first-ever ONE Championship women’s grappling title.
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born Kelly has quickly become one of the brighter stars shining throughout women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and has found a home overseas. Kelly, 27, debuted for the promotion at ONE: X in March 2022, drawing with veteran Atomweight competitor, Mei Yamaguchi, before picking up wins over Mariia Molchanova and Ayaka Miura.
Kelly has been a favorite in all of her past three matches, but she isn’t feeling that same sentiment as she approaches her big title fight rematch with Jessa Khan at ONE Fight Night 14 this weekend (Fri., Sept. 29, 2023).
“I think there’s a lot of doubt on my end,” Kelly told MMA Mania. “People think I either don’t deserve — it’s weird. They say I shouldn’t go against Jessa, but I’m the underdog and if I do beat her there’s no excuses. So, it’s weird people saying I shouldn’t go against her. I fought for ONE three times already. This is her first match and an immediate title shot. Whoopie! So, definitely not the favorite. I am not the favorite.
“When I beat her, it’s gonna put that legitimacy for the title,” she continued. “I’d basically be a world champion and there’d be no excuses and already she’s more accomplished than me. It’s really cool. I have no pressure on me in this match except like when I walk to the stage. But once I shake hands, I’m gonna go after her.”
Cambodia’s Khan, 21, beat Kelly via decision in February 2021 and has become a prodigy of sorts throughout the grappling community. While it’s only been a couple of years between their matches, Kelly has grown immensely and sees the differences between her current self and the past.
At ONE Fight Night 14, Kelly competes in one of three title fights on a women’s showcased main card. The black belt sees a stark difference in acceptance of the women competing from the time she started to now and with a match up like this ahead of her and on that type of stage, it only makes the possible revenge that much more exciting.
“If you watch that match, I wasn’t that confident, I was kind of not really myself and it’s just proof in that match that I kind of went in there and you could just tell I was very hesitant,” Kelly said. “I’m not gonna be as hesitant [this time]. Just go out there and be confident in anything.
“My favorite saying going into this is, ‘risk it for the biscuit,’” she added. “That’s what I’m gonna do because the title is my biscuit. I want that title! I don’t care if I had a rematch with this girl, I don’t care if we fought in the past. She’s just another opponent and being a world champion doesn’t make you better than anyone else.”
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