At this stage of his career, Team Lakay’s Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly (10-5) has no fear — especially when it comes to facing the toughest, and most talented, featherweights in ONE Championship.
On Saturday, 8 September, this fierce competitor will face yet another one of the division’s top contenders.
The Baguio City, Philippines native is set to collide with a former ONE Featherweight World Title challenger in Evolve MMA’s Christian “The Warrior” Lee (9-2) at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, which takes place at Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China.
“Christian is a talented young man with a lot of potential,” the 34-year-old wushu striker acknowledges.
“I have seen his fights. He is very good, and has an amazing team behind him. It is definitely going to be one of my hardest challenges.”
Kelly has witnessed it all in his five years with the promotion thus far, and compared to the young Singaporean’s body of work, he would seemingly have the edge in overall experience.
However, like all martial artists, “The Ferocious” is still learning, and he received a valuable lesson from the division’s former king two months ago.
In June, at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER, former ONE Featherweight World Champion Narantungalag Jadambaa overwhelmed the Filipino with his dynamic grappling and hard ground strikes en route to capturing a second-round TKO.
Reflecting on the defeat, Kelly realizes where things fell apart, and he intends to bring newfound knowledge into his forthcoming battle with Lee.
“I made some key strategic mistakes, and got lured into fighting at Jadambaa’s pace instead of my own,” he explains.
“I was not able to stick to the game plan, and as a result, he was able to take me down and finish me. I will not make that same mistake again. This time, I will dictate the pace.”
Kelly realizes the threat “The Warrior” presents.
The 20-year-old is a six-time Pankration World Champion equipped with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, as well as a rapidly-developing striking game he has picked up from Evolve MMA’s many Muay Thai World Champions.
Lee, who came up just short of capturing the ONE Featherweight World Title in May, has used these explosive skills to magnificent success.
He is a bonafide finisher, as he shares the ONE record for most stoppage victories in history with his teammate, Amir Khan, at nine. Of his nine finishes, five come by knockout, and four come by a variety of submissions.
While the Singaporean has impressed, Kelly — who is 14 years his senior — believes his veteran experience will play a big factor in this upcoming tilt.
“Christian is an aggressive finisher with solid grappling skills. I am fully aware of his ability to attack, and end fights quickly,” he says.
“But he is not the first knockout puncher I will be in the cage with, nor will he be the best grappler. He is talented, but he has a long way to go, and I think my experience will play a huge role in how this bout plays out.”
Adding another layer of depth to this already epic battle is the subject of gym pride.
These athletes represent two of Southeast Asia’s most elite gyms, both of which want to be known for being the best in the world.
Lee represents Evolve MMA in Singapore, which is famous for its exquisite facilities, prestigious competition team, and instructor staff of martial arts World Champions.
Although Team Lakay does not boast the same amenities, nor a never-ending supply of accomplished teachers, they make do with what little they have.
“The Ferocious” is currently deep in training, running at the high altitudes of Baguio City where he and his band of brothers power through the elements.
Not even inclement weather, brought about by the fierce monsoon rains currently ravaging the Philippines, has been able to peel Kelly’s focus away from the task at hand.
“I am determined to get this victory. It is a very important fight for me. I feel like I am the underdog heading into this match-up,” he says.
“I am ready to surprise everyone yet again, and I will give this young man a stiff test. We do not have much at Team Lakay, but we do the best we can with what we have, and that makes me very proud.”
Just a few days ago, the Mark Sangiao-led collective had to deal with a power surge that left the small gym without any electricity. That happens to be a common occurrence whenever there is a bad storm, which incidentally has been hitting Baguio City hard for more than a week.
Yet despite their predicament, Kelly’s stable was able to find other ways to push through with training — even in the pitch darkness.
“Nothing can stop us from doing what we love,” he states.
“We will always adjust, and we will always give our best in training. If we work hard, we achieve the desired results. As martial artists, our job is to keep improving, and I am ready to show fans the fruits of my labor.”
Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast