Filipino star Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly has risen into a position of prominence in the stacked ONE Championship featherweight division, and now he wants to underline his claims for a title shot with an impressive win at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER.
Kelly (10-4) will take on former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag “Tungaa” Jadambaa (12-5) in Macau on Saturday, June 23 in a bout that could position him for a World Title match later in 2018.
Kelly’s most recent performance against Meas Meul – at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES in January – was arguably the most spectacular of his career. He knocked out the Cambodian after just 21 seconds to register the fastest finish in ONE featherweight history.
Now that he is back in the win column and one of the top contenders in the division once more, Kelly plans on moving one step closer to a title shot with a victory in Macau.
It is a far cry from the early days of his career when he struggled to make a living from martial arts.
“It definitely was not easy when I started out,” the 34-year-old admits.
“Although I loved to train and I loved to compete, I was making very little money from martial arts.
“The reality is that everyone has to find ways to put food on the table, or we will all go hungry. I found myself leaving the sport and focusing on finding a more stable job.”
He turned professional in 2007 and picked up a TKO victory on his debut at a regional event in the Philippines. However, he earned just 500 pesos (USD$9.50) for his efforts.
“I was so disappointed,” he remembers.
“At the time, it kind of hit me that I might end up making nothing from fighting, so I decided to leave that life behind and focus on other means of making a living.”
Kelly decided to move to Bataan province and helped his brother Eric manage his boutique clothing store. Eventually, he bought the shop and took over the business.
But while he was making a steady income, the lure of competition never left him.
“I spent six long years away from martial arts. During that period, I really missed it. It was always on my mind,” he admits.
“Even though I was no longer a fighter, I could not stop training between managing the store and living my life.
“I left my passion behind and I felt empty. I watched Team Lakay prosper on the martial arts scene – both locally and internationally. I had that ‘what if’ feeling, like I was missing out.”
He fought a couple more times on the regional scene in 2009, but couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger on going full-time until he watched his brother Eric compete at ONE Championship’s inaugural event in September 2011.
“When my brother beat Mitch Chilson, that is when I knew I had to come back to martial arts,” he says.
“I could not give up my dream anymore, and I wanted to give it another try.”
Kelly hasn’t looked back since. He dedicated to a full-time martial arts career, training out of Team Lakay in Baguio City, then fought and won twice in Malaysia before getting the call to sign with ONE Championship.
Now one of the most dangerous contenders in the ONE featherweight division, Kelly looks back at that time in his career with satisfaction, knowing he made the right choice at the right time.
“I was so happy and content with my decision. I felt at peace doing what I really, truly loved,” he explains.
“My dream now is to build my name in this sport, become a World Champion, and see how far I can go.”
Victory against Jadambaa will put him within touching distance of that dream.