Eric “The Natural” Kelly may have fallen in recent times, but he is determined to get back up and turn his martial arts career around.
After back-to-back losses in 2016, the Filipino sought to right the ship in his featherweight clash against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS last August.
The Baguio City, Philippines native looked good in the early rounds, as he rocked Boku and nearly stopped the bout with a flurry of punches in the opening stanza. He then went on to knock Boku down in the second round, too.
However, the Japanese warrior showed resilience to recover both times, and rally to a thrilling comeback in the final frame.
“I did not have a good preparation for the bout, and I am taking it as a lesson,” the humbled 35-year-old says. The defeat dropped his professional record to 12-4, and put him on the first three-bout skid of his career.
“I lacked discipline. I have accepted the fact that I am in a bad spot, but I am taking all those experiences as lessons and inspecting them for my future matches.”
Despite the string of losses, his confidence remains unfazed, as he brings a determined and positive attitude into his upcoming bout against Brazil’s Rafael “Indio” Nunes at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES. The event broadcasts live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila on Friday, 26 January.
Nunes boasts an impressive professional record of 10-1, with five victories coming by way of submission and another four by TKO. The last time he competed was back in June 2014, when he made his promotional debut opposite Japan’s Koji “The Commander” Ando at ONE: WAR OF DRAGONS. On that night, Ando cleverly submitted him via rear-naked choke in the opening round.
The Brazilian has not been able to avenge his lone blemish, however, as illness and injury have derailed his comeback. But now, he is finally healed up, and ready to resume his career.
More than three years after his last match, Nunes’ hunger for his first win on the global stage might only be rivaled by Kelly’s desire to get back on track. Understandably, it is not easy to study an opponent who lives on the other side of the world, and coming off such a long layoff.
“He has been away for a while, so I am not sure if he got stronger or improved,” Kelly says. “All I know is that I am training to achieve a win.”
As usual, Kelly prides himself on being a lone wolf. He is not affiliated with any gym, and even after his latest defeat at the hands of Boku, he is opting to self-train in anticipation of his battle with the returning Nunes.
The Filipino is doing this because he wants to stress a few points.
“I started training as soon as I leaned I was going to compete. That was early in December. I increased my trainings, because as I said, I have learned from my previous matches,” he explains.
“I still do my natural style of training — I train alone and visit different gyms. I want to show the world that I am a natural martial artist.”