TWO of the most renowned Filipino mixed martial arts fighters vowed to bounce back from disappointing losses.
Eric “The Natural” Kelly (12-2) and Team Lakay’s Honorio “The Rock” Banario (8-6), who are both coming off stinging defeats, get their chance to get back to the winner’s circle at ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS on April 15 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The two Baguio City fighters made the promise before media at a press luncheon last March 31.
Ironically, both Kelly, 33, and Banario, 26, lost their previous bouts to the same man in Malaysia’s Ev Ting who submitted both fighters through a Guillotine choke hold. Both are ready to show the world that there’s still a lot of gas left in the tank.
Kelly, who was once on the cusp of a featherweight title shot, will face the dangerous Timofey Nastyukhin (9-2) of Russia. Kelly was a fighter on the rise until he was sidetracked by lackluster performances against Hiroshige Tanaka and then Ting. He’s looking for redemption and another crack at ONE Championship gold.
“The goal of every fighter is to become champion, but for now my focus is on (Timofey) Nastyukhin,” said Kelly, who returned to the high altitude of Baguio to better prepare himself for the coming bouts.
“For me, I don’t have a stable gym where I train full-time. I train more naturally. Whichever gym I find myself in, that’s where I train. Mostly, I just watch YouTube videos and apply it to my training and then I go to some gyms to test it out. I am in constant search for more knowledge for my career,” said Kelly.
The once fearsome Banario is in a hole he wants to climb out of. After a spectacular string of victories under another promotion Banario has lost his last five bouts under the ONE Championship banner. To his credit Banario lost to the best in his division in fighters Koji Oishi, former champion Narantungalag Jadambaa, Herbert Burns and Ting.
Banario faces fellow Filipino and former URCC standout Vaughn “The Spawn” Donayre (8-4). Donayre, who is based in Dubai, is also searching for his first victory inside the ONE Cage.
“Vaughn Donayre is a complete fighter also. I prepared for this fight. This will be my comeback fight because in the past few years I’ve been losing to the biggest fighters in my division. But now this is a new challenge for me if I can come back,” said Banario who wants to prove that he belongs in the ONE Championship banner and can compete with the best fighters there.
“My conditioning is good. I feel strong in this state. I’m very strong at my normal fighting weight. I changed the way I approach a fight. I pace myself more now whereas before it was all fast-paced, that’s why I make mistakes from the first round. Now, I will pace myself until I get my timing down, then I’ll strike,” Banario said.
ONE: GLOBAL RIVALS is ONE Championship’s first event in Manila this year, and will be held at the state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. The card will be headlined by ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren as he defends his title against former Combat Sambo world champion Nikolay Aleksakhin of Russia.