Things could not have gone better for the Philippines’ Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia last August, the Team Lakay featherweight standout was looking to start the year off right by making a statement in his first assignment of 2018.
That statement was made both hard and fast.
Last Friday, 26 January, Kelly knocked out Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a record-setting 21 seconds at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES, live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila.
“After the loss to Urrutia, I was shocked and did not know how to react at the time. I was in such a good place, but that loss really derailed me. Now, to come back to the ONE cage, in front of my hometown crowd and all the Filipino fans, it was an emotional moment for me,” the 33-year-old Filipino explains.
“You never know what will happen next in this game. Every bout is a test, no matter who the opponent is. That my victory was such an exciting and explosive knockout is a bonus. I am very happy with my performance.”
Kelly looked absolutely phenomenal.
Once the bell rang, the pair took their time sizing each other up. But before long, “The Ferocious” unleashed a devastating combination that sent the Cambodian crashing to the canvas.
“I never expected to finish him so quickly. I prepared to go the full length of every round knowing that Cambodian athletes are tough and very durable, a lot like Filipinos,” Kelly admits.
“We both really work hard for what we have. I guess I just got there first. It was a quick and efficient finish.”
The official time of the KO was recorded at the 21-second mark of the very first round, which makes it the fastest knockout and finish in ONE’s featherweight history. But having that distinction and honor is not something the humble Filipino warrior says he would brag about.
“The record does not mean much. Whether it is 21 seconds or the full three rounds, what matters is that I prepared myself to be the best,” he continues.
“I think I just did my part to show the world what I am capable of in the cage. The win was great, but now it is back to training, and getting better for the next bout.”
One key to Kelly’s preparations for this bout, which he revealed to broadcast analyst Mitch Chilson in the post-bout interview, is that he had chosen to cut off his social media activity to concentrate fully on preparations and training.
“I just needed to unplug for a while, and step away from the negativity. There are a lot of comments online about my performances, my team, and random stuff that I have trouble dealing with,” he admits.
“I wanted to concentrate solely on this bout. At some point, I will have to learn to tune that negativity out. I am working on it.”
The result of Kelly’s uncompromised focus cannot be denied. He looked tremendously strong, and was perhaps the best version of “The Ferocious” anyone has ever seen. The emphatic finish serves as a reminder of what the Baguio City-based featherweight is capable of when he has his training in order.
Coming into 2018, the cage veteran believes this could be his year to truly shine.
“In my mind, I knew I had to win this bout to start the year off on the right foot,” Kelly says.
“I had to make a statement that I am still one of the top featherweights in this promotion. Four wins out of my last five is not a bad number. I will take it.”
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his older brother Eric, who dropped his fourth straight bout in a submission loss to Brazil’s Rafael “Indio” Nunes.
The younger Edward once said he returned to martial arts competition after seeing his older brother shine under the ONE banner, so witnessing Eric’s fall over the past couple of years has been difficult.
Still, “The Ferocious” believes there is always hope, even when everything else seems impossible.
“I cannot help but feel sad,” Kelly says.
“He is my older brother after all, and he is one of the [main] reasons I came back to the cage. When I saw how great he was doing, it inspired me to resume my martial arts career.”
“I will always be here to support him. It is tough to lose four in a row, but you can always come back. Dedication is the key, and sooner or later, he will be back on the winning track.”