BJJ Star Danielle Kelly Inspired By Garry Tonon’s Journey In ONE Championship

Mar 8, 2022
BJJ star Danielle Kelly wears a ONE rashguard

Now that she’s joined ONE Championship, Danielle Kelly plans to continue her impressive submission grappling career and also kick-start a successful path in mixed martial arts.

Performing at a high level in both disciplines won’t be easy, but the women’s BJJ star has found a source of inspiration in #2-ranked featherweight contender Garry Tonon.

In fact, Kelly told ONE Championship that she’s been following “The Lion Killer” for a while:

“Actually, he’s one of the few that I’ve always been watching, whether it was MMA fighting or jiu-jitsu, and even after he got signed [to ONE], I would watch every MMA fight to the end. And we kind of have a similar style. So that, for sure, helped me with my decision [to pursue a career in MMA and sign with ONE].”

Tonon is a BJJ black belt who ripped through the submission grappling scene earlier in his career.

The 30-year-old American won multiple IBJJF No-Gi World Titles and EBI Grappling Championships, and he even submitted Shinya Aoki in ONE’s first-ever grappling match back in May 2017.

Soon after, “The Lion Killer” made a seamless transition to MMA, where he’s racked up a flawless 6-0 professional record and will challenge for the ONE Featherweight World Title later this week.

From the sounds of it, Kelly is following Tonon’s lead. In fact, she’s already been fine-tuning her stand-up arsenal behind closed doors.

“I’ve been working on my striking for these [past] two years, and I’m with a really good team. I’m pretty confident. So, you know, I’m just going to keep working on my jiu-jitsu and work behind the scenes on my striking. And whenever I’m ready, I’ll come about it.”

Danielle Kelly on her MMA training

Garry Tonon And Danielle Kelly Fight In ONE This Month

March will be a big month for both Garry Tonon and Danielle Kelly.

Tonon will challenge ONE Featherweight World Champion Thanh Le for the gold in the main event of ONE: LIGHTS OUT this Friday, 11 March, while Kelly will face Japanese veteran and fellow BJJ black belt Mei Yamaguchi in an atomweight grappling match at ONE X on 26 March. 

The 26-year-old Kelly has already done her homework on “V.V,” who’s put together a successful MMA career and twice challenged for gold in ONE Championship.

“I’ve seen her finish people, and obviously, I’ve been watching her fights because I’m going against her. But I’ve seen her submit a lot of people, and I don’t think she’s ever gotten knocked out or submitted. So, it would be really cool to be the first person to submit her.”

Danielle Kelly on Mei Yamaguchi

Kelly will have a single 12-minute round of grappling to get the job done against Yamaguchi, but she doesn’t believe it will take nearly that long to secure the finish.

In fact, the American gave a bold prediction to ONE Championship:

“I’ll submit her in under five or six minutes.”

Should Kelly win at ONE X, it will be interesting to see whether her next match comes in submission grappling or if she follows Tonon’s path and jumps right into MMA.

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