MANILA, Philippines - "I will knock him out or win by submission."
Eric Kelly made this promise as he gears up for his much-awaited match-up with countryman Honorio Banario for the featherweight title in the ONE Fighting Championship: Return of the Warriors slated Feb. 2 at the Stadium Putra in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Kelly, nicknamed “The Natural” in the most popular mixed martial arts outfit in Asia, will also stake his unblemished slate in nine mixed martial arts matches including three on the ONE FC stage over Mitch Chilson, Bae Young Kwon and former Ultimate Fighting Championship title-holder Jens Pulver.
"Winning the ONE FC title is my dream and this fight is my opportunity to make that dream come true," said the 30-year-old Kelly, who was with his family in Baguio City the last few days before flying to Malaysia where he starts training for the Banario fight.
"ONE FC is the biggest MMA show in Asia and all the best fighters here want to fight for ONE FC, to be the champion would be very important for me and my career," he added.
To beat Banario, Kelly said he would need to double his efforts.
"I was in Baguio with my family and I have been running in the hills there," said Kelly. "I'm now in Malaysia for training at Muayfit with Peter Davis, Arnaud Lepont and the fighters and trainers there and then before the fight I think my manager Chef Ro will send me to Macau for some hard training."
"My condition is already good and I am ready to begin the hard fight training," he added.
Kelly is also looking forward to facing Banario's solid ground-and-pound.
"Honorio has good takedowns but I do not know if he will try to take me down because he knows I have some submission skills," said Kelly. "His ground and pound is dangerous but I feel I can also be very dangerous even if I am on my back."
"For this fight I think he will want to test his stand up skills against me. It will be like a wushu match with MMA gloves. He has good striking but I believe mine is better," he added.
Regardless of the result, however, the PH will be assured of its first champion in ONE FC.
Kelly said he's all primed-up to clinch the honors.
"If I train hard and have a good game plan, I get the victory," he said.