Daniel Kelly’s UFC career has always been improbable. Little more than an afterthought when he stepped off TUF Nations: Canada vs. Australia (itself something of an afterthought season, even by TUF standards) the already 36-year-old Kelly wasn’t expected to have much success fighting in the world’s largest MMA organization. Considering that his only bout on the Ultimate Fighter resulted in a 56-second submission loss to an under-sized Sheldon Westcott, many were even surprised Kelly got the opportunity to fight in the Octagon.
Four years later and, even on the back of a three fight losing streak, it’s clear that Kelly is a much more talented fighter than most everyone was ready to give him credit for. Closing in on 41, the former Judo Olympian is sitting on a professional record of 13-4, with six victories under the UFC banner. Now he’s looking for one last chance to showcase his skills before he hangs up the gloves.
“Look, I’d do anything to be able to roll back the clock and keep going, but the body is struggling,” Kelly admitted in an interview with Submission Radio, adding that he’s had an extended recovery from an eye injury suffered in his last bout. “At some point you do have to stop. I’ve got guys who I coach, not only in Judo, in MMA as well. I mean, Big Ben Sosoli’s in the Ultimate Fighter house at the moment. I coach him. We’ve got another group of MMA guys who are coming up. So, it’s a good time. It’s just now that we’re starting to get some of the Melbourne guys in, apart from it just being me and Jake (Matthews). It’s be nice to cross over that way as well. And have a show where Jimmy will definitely be on this one and probably the next one, Ben will be floating around by that time to I hope. And it’d be good just to have that transition out.”
Kelly is hoping to get a fight booked against Zak Cummings, who called out the middleweight in a recent post on social media. It’d be the first bout for Cummings at 185 since joining the UFC in 2013. The only problem is, Kelly is no longer under contract with the promotion. His latest loss, a first round knockout against Tom Breese, marked the end of his deal. However, he has an exceptionally good reason to get one last shot in the Octagon.
Daniel Kelly’s 12-year-old son, Erik, suffers from Cystinosis. It’s a genetic disorder that causes crystalline buildup within the body, that often leads to complete kidney failure early in life for those affected – as well as a wide variety of other debilitating symptoms. Kelly wants to walkout one last time, with Erik at his side, something he’d been hesitant to do previously.
“My eldest son is a little bit older now,” Kelly said, clarifying why he wouldn’t continue fighting even with a win in his next bout. “I want him to be involved too. He’s in high school now, I want him to be involved a little bit. And I’ve always been very sure to keep them separated from that, but he’s nearly 13. He’s old enough to just experience it with me. Added to which, I see what Jake (Matthews) and Mick (Matthews) have got – which is very special and I’m very close to those guys – and also Jimmy Crute having his dad over at the contender series, and obviously Jimmy trains a lot with us too and is a good friend of mine. Added to which, seeing Mark Hunt walk out with Noah in Perth. I want this last opportunity to share that with Erik.”
“I’d want him to walk out with me for the fight,” He continued. “I mean, yeah, everyone knows the history with Erik. I mean, I keep it a little bit private. But, I think it would be a special thing and a special moment to share with him, to be able to do that one last time with his dad.”
“I floated it by him a little bit, but yeah, it’s an exciting thing. He was a little bit worried to start with. He’s like, ‘Oh, are you sure? I don’t want to be a distraction’. And I said, ‘Son, the last thing you would be is a distraction in that kind of situation.’ And yeah, he was excited.
“But I mean, there’s a lot of things to happen. I mean, I’m out of contract now. I barely had any contact with the UFC. The eye is getting better. I’m in a little bit of… not limbo, but you know? It’s like, yeah, we gotta see what happens. There’s a lot of things to happen before I get the opportunity to do this one last time. But let’s be honest, even though I’m on a three-fight losing streak, I’ve still got a positive record in the UFC. I’m 6-4, I’ve still got some really good wins, some really big wins at home too. I mean, the Camozzi fight, the Shoeface fight. They were massive, massive wins in Australia and the whole crown got behind me there. So that would be great to get one last roll of the dice, and then that’s it.”
UFC Fight Night 142 takes place on December 2nd in Adelaide, Australia. Currently, the only bout penciled in for the event is a flyweight contest between Wilson Reis and Ben Nguyen. Hopefully, by the time fight night rolls around, it’ll include a spot for Daniel Kelly and his son Erik as well.