The best way to know more about Eric "The Natural" Kelly is to first determine what he is not.
Firstly, he is not a Filipino-American. I wasn't the first one to be thrown off by that very Irish-American sounding last name.
Kelly tells me his father's surname was really Kili, but that it was changed to Kelly upon the suggestion of one of his Dad's teachers.
The veteran fighter is a proud Igorot, as are many of the country's finest Mixed Martial Arts fighters. The 30-year-old hails from the Green Valley area in Baguio and is the eldest of seven children in a farming family.
Kelly is also not a stunt double for Vhong Navarro, in the ABS-CBN show Agent X44, neither is he a Baguio City taxi driver, and neither does he plant sayote, a Filipino squash variant, for a living.
But yes, he has done all of that in the past to provide for his family. Such is the tough life of a pro fighter.
It was a love for his wife and three kids that led Kelly to accept a job offer to fight out of and instruct at MuayFit, a Mixed-Martial Arts gym in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
(In case you're wondering, no, Kelly is not a Malaysian citizen, he remains very much a Filipino.)
Kelly enjoys life in Malaysia, and is so comfortable with his boss, MuayFit owner Paul Teo, that he even attends a Born-Again Christian church with him.
The exposure has been precious for Kelly.
Maraming pumupuntang foreigner dito eh. May Brazilian, may Thai. Sa Pilipinas kami-kami lang.” (A lot of foreigners come here, while in the Philippines it's just the Filipinos I get to fight with.)

But Kelly does confess that he misses life back home.
Hindi ako nakakahanap ng bulalo dito.” (I can't find bulalo, or Filipino beef bone-marrow stew here.)
Kelly may be a ferocious pugilist, but he is not an bad guy outside of the ring.
Says MuayFit stablemate Arnaud “The Game” Lepont on Facebook, “he is the most humble guy I know and always kind with my son (sic). Hope he will bring the belt for his family and for the gym. After all the sacrifices he has done, it would just be normal!”
Kelly is also not a member of the Philippine Wushu Team, at least not anymore. In fact he betrays some resentment towards the Wushu powers-that-be during his time, who he says cut his allowance after he got a groin injury over a decade ago.
But Wushu definitely honed his striking skills, as did his study of Yaw-Yan (Sayaw ng Kamatayan or Dance of Death) the uniquely Filipino brand of kickboxing that is a close cousin to Muay Thai.
Kelly does not have the ONE Fighting Championship Featherweight Belt hanging from his waist, but that may change on February 2, when he squares off against fellow Pinoy Honorio "The Rock" Banario in the very first Featherweight title match in the promotion's history. The all-Pinoy showdown will be the main event in The ONE FC: Return Of Warriors in Kuala Lumpur. It will be Kelly's first time to fight in his adopted hometown.
Honorio Banario. Image Copyright Bob Guerrero.
Matagal ko na siya di nakikita lumaban, pero sigurado ako maganda yung laban” (I haven't seen him fight in a long time but I know it's going to be a good fight) says Kelly about his fellow Igorot, who is fighting out of Team Lakay.
Banario will drop down from Lightweight (155 lbs), where he is the current Universal Reality Combat Challenge (URCC) champ, to Featherweight (145 lbs) for the match.
The two know each other well and have sparred previously, but this will be their first fight.
Kelly will stake his perfect 9-0 record against Banario's 7-1 slate. Banario is seven years younger.His MMA career may have started late in 2009, but he has obviously built up a solid ground game. Kelly's first six matches all ended with him winning via submission. His specialty: a nasty rear naked choke. Watch him take out American Mitch Chilson via RNC here.
In his latest fight, he subdued Australian Brad Terrey via armbar in the URCC card last December.
The Filipino says he would love to keep on fighting for another five or six years, and his ultimate dream is to make it to the bigger MMA stages elsewhere in the world.
But a first step would be to get that ONE FC Featherweight belt in two weeks time.
Eric Kelly may not be a lot of things, but he is one thing: a winner.
To learn more about ONE FC, click on their website, You can also follow them on Twitter @ONEFCMMA.
Follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.

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