When Eric “The Natural” Kelly returns to Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena for ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR
on Friday, 12 April, he will have only one goal in mind — to leave his previous struggles behind.
Kelly will be taking on “Pretty Boy” Kwon Won Il in a featherweight mixed martial arts bout, where he will attempt to end his five-bout losing streak in ONE Championship
“A different Eric Kelly will show up on Friday. I am extra motivated. You will see how I prepared for this,” the 36-year-old said during the pre-event press conference at the City Of Dreams Manila on Tuesday, 9 April.
For “The Natural,” admission is the first step of moving forward.
Kelly admitted to reaching a personal low during his previous matches, where vices and lack of motivation became his bane.
The result? He turned from a perennial World Title contender to a wounded warrior who is hanging by a thread in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
“I trained in Dubai — not only to work on my skills, but also to fix myself, personally,” he shared.
“When I was here in the Philippines, I wasn’t focused. I was too fixated on my vices and sometimes, I even fought without training. I really lost focus.
“This is such a big fight for me because I know that my fighting career rests on this match.”
His younger brother Edward, who will face Sung Jong Lee on the same card, turned emotional when talking about Eric’s struggles.
The power-puncher out of Team Lakay knows the type of struggles his older brother went through, and he is naturally happy to see Eric turning his life around.
“He stayed far away and went to Dubai for a stretch,” Edward said.
“I was seeing his family. He wanted to be a father and show that he can take care of his family. He has struggled heavily, but I know he’ll redeem himself.”
Although the younger sibling may train with a different martial arts team, Eric will always be a source of motivation and the person who started him on his career path.
“Having him on the same card is special. He’s the reason why we’re here in the first place," Edward said. “I’m here because of him. He’s the one who inspired me when I first showed interest in fighting.”