For the longest time, all Edward Kelly wanted to do was become a police officer, and protect those around him.
After all, the streets he lived in were filled with gangsters and hooligans who got into fights, some of whom included his cousins and other extended family members. That led Kelly to his dream of cleaning up those streets and helping the innocent.
“My focus before joining the police was to defend the people,” the 33-year-old Baguio City, Philippines native says. “I came from a province where a lot of people are pickpockets, and they were making illegal money instead of taking legal jobs. So, I wanted to apprehend them and put them in prison.”
During his teenaged years, Kelly pursued his boyhood fantasy. While studying Criminology at the University Of The Cordilleras, he took an internship with the local police department, both to fulfill his degree requirements and take the first step on his law enforcement journey.
It was a memorable internship for the wrong reasons, because it made him realize it was a career path he no longer wanted to pursue.
“Police morale was low back in 2007,” he recalls. “I remember during my internship, I asked four or five officers, ‘How is police life?’ Almost all of them that I asked already had five to ten years of service. All of them suggested to me to take another course.”
Kelly discovered he could not make the impact he wanted as a policeman, and that it was beyond his control. With his childhood dream in shambles, he found inspiration in his older brother, Eric, now a fellow ONE Championship athlete.
Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Kelly’s parents were chayote farmers who instilled a strong sense of hard work into their children. This holds especially true for Edward and Eric, who are two of seven children.
Although brothers do not always get along with one another, the two took things to another level. They fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.
Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them. The elder Kelly soon started kickboxing, and later in 2000, even competed on the Philippines Wushu Team.
Edward paid attention to these growing accolades, and was heavily motivated.
“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he remembers. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”
Following his graduation from Baguio City National High School’s St Tomas Annex in 2001, Kelly spent the next year and a half competing in amateur kickboxing. Three years later, he entered the University Of Cordilleras to study Criminology.
There, he met Mark Sangiao, a national teammate of his brother Eric, as well as the school’s head coach in wushu, who recruited him into the discipline. Though he had a kickboxing background, Kelly seamlessly adapted his talents for wushu and made the varsity team.
After graduating with his Bachelor Of Science in 2007, he had already passed the necessary board exams to be licensed as a criminologist. However, after that aforementioned internship experience, he decided not to pursue a life of crimefighting, and instead, decided to become a professional martial artist. To him, it only felt right.
“Martial arts speaks to my heart. It taught me a lot — not only in competition, but even outside the cage,” he says. “Unlike my cousins, who easily get into fights, martial arts taught me discipline. I do not get into street fights or anything like that.”
Kelly (9-4) continues to train under the tutelage of Sangiao at Team Lakay in Baguio City, and the ONE featherweight is looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout win streak snapped by Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.
In his next bout, he goes up against Meas Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six victories to his credit, at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES. The event takes place from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines on Friday, 26 January.
Although the man known as “The Ferocious” has all the talent to become a world title contender, that does not appear to be his ultimate goal.
While becoming the ONE Featherweight World Champion would be the pinnacle of his career, helping people through martial arts is still more important. After all, it allows him to do what becoming a police officer could not.
More importantly, Kelly’s main purpose is to provide for his family, and to be a positive role model to his two-and-a-half year old son.
“After being in martial arts for such a long time, my goal now is to share this with my family,” Kelly states. “If my son grows up and sees that I am a martial artist and also wants to be one, I would fully support him. Even if he does not become a professional, it would still give him discipline in his life.”