ERIC Kelly and Joshua Pacio seek to deliver another outstanding performance as they take separate foes when One Championship’s "Kings and Conquerors" electrify Cotai Arena at The Venetian in Macao on Saturday night, August 5.
Kelly eyes to reclaim his lost ground as he takes on former ONE lightweight world champion Kotetsu Boku (25-11-2) in a featherweight bout.
After prevailing in his first nine matches in impressive fashion, the former Philippines’ wushu national team member met Honorio “The Rock” Banario for the inaugural ONE featherweight world championship in February 2013. An eye injury in the fourth round led to him respectfully bowing out, and caused the belt to slip from his hands.
Though he stood victorious in his next three bouts, his title hopes were once again dashed when Ev Ting submitted him via guillotine choke at ONE: Clash of Heroes in January 2016. Later that July, former titleholder Narantungalag Jadambaa knocked him out in 44 seconds to hand him another devastating setback.
Kelly felt like his losses to Ting and Jadambaa were God’s way of reminding him that he was not invincible.
The young gun Pacio meanwhile will have one of the toughest test of his MMA career as he battles undefeated Hayato Suzuki in a strawweight contest seen by observers as a possible title eliminator with the winner earning a possible shot at the belt being held by Yoshitaka Naito.
The 21-year-old native of Baguio City, Benguet earlier said he is not in a hurry and would rather take the long road to a second championship crack than prematurely vie for the gold-plated strap.
Pacio earned his lone previous title shot when he defeated gritty Thai grappler Kritsada Kongsrichai via first-round submission in August 2016 to set up a date with ONE Championship’s reigning strawweight kingpin Yoshitaka Naito.
Naito derailed Pacio’s title aspirations in October 2016 as the Japanese champion pulled off a come-from-behind win by submitting the Filipino fighter with a rear-naked choke in the third round to keep the coveted ONE strawweight world championship belt around his waist.
Meanwhile, Kelly, who started his professional career in 2009, has been described as a lone wolf because he has never had an established MMA team and only hops from one gym to another.
Although he acknowledged that a reliable support team in his bouts is missing, Kelly intends to stick with the training regimen that he is used to.
Kelly has been seen diligently grinding at various local gyms in his hometown of Baguio City, while allotting time to make a trip down to Metro Manila to train in the city’s elite fight camps.
Both fighters will be in the undercard of the event headlined by ONE bantamweight world champion Bibiano Fernandes, the most dominant champion in promotional history, who will be making a record seventh title defense, this time against wrestling sensation Andrew Leone.
Also in the co-main event is the match-up for the undisputed ONE flyweight world Champion against reigning kingpin Kairat Akhmetov taking on interim titleholder Adriano Moraes in an epic rematch.