Previously one of the most promising homegrown mixed martial artists from the Philippines, Eric “The Natural” Kelly just can’t seem to catch a break these days.
The 37-year-old Benguet native dropped his seventh consecutive match, losing via unanimous decision to Niu Kang Kang last Saturday at ONE: Legendary Quest from the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai, China.
It was a tough defeat to swallow for Kelly, who showed plenty of grit in the loss, an attribute absent in his prior outings.
After the stinging defeat, Kelly briefly considered retirement.
“I have seven straight losses. I have never been so dismayed at myself as a mixed martial artist, and right now, I admit that I am thinking about retirement,” said the Filipino, who is also struggling in his personal life.
“I’ve been going through a lot, and it has certainly affected my training. But I am always thankful to the people who have always been there, who have never lost faith in me.”
As if his luck could not get any worse, Kelly also suffered a cut on his left eye during his preparation for Niu. And as he walked to the ring, the injury clearly affected him.
“I don’t really think I was destined to win against Niu Kang Kang in Shanghai,” he confessed.
“Three days before we traveled to Shanghai, I suffered an accidental headbutt on my left eye. [Niu] hit it with a jab and it quickly opened, and it really affected my stand-up game,” he recalled.
“But I didn’t stop even when we were on the ground. I kept on punching, hoping to score some points, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
After catching his breath and reflecting on his performance, Kelly’s mood lifted with the amount of support he received from his fans.
The win might remain elusive, but at least the warrior spirit is back for “The Natural.”
“After looking back, I do feel a bit rejuvenated, and I feel like I can continuously take on the challenges I have here in the sport and in my personal life,” Kelly said.
“To all my fans who are always there, thank you. Without your words, I would have given up. I just want to get a win, and maybe then I can consider retirement.”