Near-death experience leaves Kelly fearless

Paul Kelly has just come out of a grueling training session with guys at the opposite end of the MMA weight class and although sore and full of bumps, he is chipper about his scheduled fight against Roli Delgado at the inaugural Bavarian UFC event.

“Things are tough here at the Wolfslair, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am getting thrown around by people like Zach Light, Sean Salmon, Ricco Rodriguez, and Tommy Rowlands – who is the best wrestler I have ever seen,” explains the Scouse terror.

Such is the standing of the Wolfslair on the world MMA circuit that they are able to draw into Liverpool, England, such highly regarded international names, and it shows in the fights the camp has been undertaking of late.

“I went into my last fight pretty banged up, but I didn’t draw any attention to it. I was carrying two serious injuries, but I kept pushing through, even though I was gassed in the last round,” offers Kelly.

Not that anyone would have noticed given the quantity of vicious body shots he threw at Troy Mandoliz from the second stanza onwards.

“I could tell those were hurting him, but I wasn’t getting too complacent. I kept hearing B.J. Penn shouting out ‘left over the top,’ but I wasn’t going to give it to him because he hit so bloody hard.”

For those that remember the fight, it was a case of two immovable objects colliding, but Kelly appeared to have it all in hand.

“Believe me, Troy hits so very hard. A week after the fight I was in Tesco doing the shopping. I got to the tills and realized I had forgotten my wallet, so I asked them to keep it to one side while I went to get it from the car I borrowed after selling mine. I was walking around for half an hour because I couldn’t remember what it looked like, so I gave up and called the missus out to pay for it and pick me up – that’s how hard he hits,” laughs Kelly in retrospect.

So does he expect such fireworks from the 6 foot 3 inch frame of BJJ Black Belt Roli Delgado?

“If it makes any sense, he looks as though he isn’t as good as he is,” answers Kelly.

Confused yet?

He explains, “His one major stand-up weapon is his knee; he sucks you into it and then takes you down to work his ground game. Well, he won’t take me down and if he pulls guard, I am gonna smash his face with elbows and cut him wide open.”

Okay, so by now it’s pretty obvious what Kelly expects to do in this fight, but does shredding someone’s face with elbows lead all the way to a bonus check?

“I want an exciting fight. I would love it if he stood there in front of me and we banged it out for three rounds, picked up fight of the night honors, and a big fat check, thank you very much. But I don’t think that will happen. I will have to aim for KO of the night when he goes for a takedown.”

At the moment there is probably a picture being built up in your mind of Kelly hating his opponent, but surprisingly it’s not the case.

“I had Christmas dinner with him. He is a really nice bloke and in all fairness, I don’t think that he would have chosen the fight with me. I think Joe Silva made it happen and didn’t give him an option, so now we fight,” he explains.

To put it into context, the UFC has been keeping its roster busy and cutting any deadwood from the promotion. Kelly himself admits that if he hadn’t have won his last fight, he might not be competing in Germany.

Cutting to the chase, Kelly is currently 15 pounds out of the contracted fight weight and expects to be up as high as 180 pounds come fight time. His opponent will have reach and height, but he expects to have the edge in strength and conditioning; not least of all in heart, having faced physical adversity several times in his life. He now finds fighting relatively simple by comparison.

“When I came off my motorbike, I spent six months in bed unable to move, unable to wipe my own arse, unable to do anything. After that I spent 18 months walking around with a limp, getting my muscles back to normal and recovering. That experience is character building and removes all traces of fear from what I do now. All any opponent has is their fists – it doesn’t scare me at all.”

Kelly is one tough hombre, training with big guys, exploiting his weaknesses, picking up war wounds he is proud of along the way, and he loves it.

“I was sparring with Mike (Bisping) the other day. He clipped me good with an uppercut and I had to have three stitches in my eye. I am quite pleased at that, as some of my best fights have happened after stuff like that in training. I love my war wounds and I hate not having something to show for it.”

Come June 14 he can see if he has collected any new mementos to go with a stamp in his passport.

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    Updated Thursday, Jun 4, 2009