Eric Kelly Expecting Stand-Up War Against Honorio Banario at ONE FC: Return of Warriors

Featherweight Eric Kelly had barely recovered from the most bruising fight of his entire career when the call came to fight Honorio Banario for the ONE FC title but he had no hesitation in accepting the fight against his fellow Filipino.

“After my fight for the URCC my right eye was closed and I could not see anything and I did not know if I had any broken bones but thank God I am OK now and am ready to start training again, I would fight for the ONE FC title with only one eye if I had to because MMA is my passion and winning this belt is my dream,” said Kelly in an interview with Fighters.com of the February 2 meeting with Banario at ONE FC: Return of Warriors.

The unbeaten featherweight was thrown in with the relatively unknown Brad Terrey in his previous pairing who had an 0-1 record but turned out to be absolutely enormous and towered over Kelly after cutting twenty pounds. It was a real war of attrition, fought under URCC rules which meant two ten minute rounds, and the Filipino’s right eye swelled completely shut midway through the first.

“I could not see out of my eye at all and the doctor ask me if I want to stop the fight but MMA is my passion and being a champion is my dream and I knew I must carry on fighting and Thank God I won the fight,” explained Kelly.

What on paper looked to be a straightforward match up for Kelly turned into one of the toughest fights he has ever experienced but he was rewarded for his refusal to quit when, after more than 20 minutes of fighting, he mounted Terrey and sunk in an Armbar for the seventh submission win of his career.

For his next assignment Kelly will be fighting in his adopted hometown of Kuala Lumpur. He has been based at Muayfit there for almost a year and having already registered a close decision win over Bae Young Kwon at ONE FC: Destiny of Warriors in Malaysia feels that the fans will be on his side,

“I am happy to fight in front of all my Malaysian friends because I have lived here for a long time and teach MMA at Muayfit so I hope everyone can come to support me in this fight,” stated Kelly. “I was not happy with my performance last time I fought in Kuala Lumpur because I won by decision and that was the first time for me that I did not finish my opponent so I hope to do better this time.”

Kelly’s title fight with Banario is set for five rounds but, having sparred with him extensively, the 30-year old is adamant that this is one fight which will not go the distance, stating, “Yes me and Honorio are both from Baguio and we have trained together before, we are friends. This fight is for the ONE FC title and it is my dream to be a world champion so after the fight we will be friends again but only one of us can be the champion so we will both fight hard and I expect there will be a knockout.”

Although Kelly’s record reflects his competence on the ground, at 9-0 with seven submission wins, he says he is just as comfortable in the striking department and is ready for a stand up war when he takes on Banario.

“He is good with takedowns but I am good with submissions so I do not think he will try to take me down in the fight,” revealed Kelly of his mindset. “We have sparred together before and we are both very aggressive fighters and we will both try to test our Wushu so it will be a striking war, I think it will be Fight of the Night.”

Historically Filipinos have been very reluctant to fight one another and when two contenders from the Philippines emerge in the same weight class in boxing they almost always refuse to go head to head. Kelly admits that Banario would not have been his first choice of opponent but he was not going to turn down a shot at the ONE FC title.

“I prefer to fight a foreigner because I am a proud Pinoy and I want to show how strong MMA fighters from the Philippines can be but ONE FC is the biggest promotion in all of Asia and all the best fighters want to be ONE FC champion so this is a big opportunity for my career. Honorio is my friend and in future I will support him in his fighting but first I must defeat him,” he concluded.

PHOTO CREDIT: ONE FC