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Dan Kelly fine with UFC underdog status: ‘Apparently I move like a robot and someone who can’t strike’

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After picking up a big win at UFC Melbourne, Dan Kelly spoke to the assembled media about being continually underrated.

The thing about being a perpetual underdog is that it never stops happening. That seems simple enough - after all ‘perpetual’ is right there in the title. But it’s a strange concept to grapple with in practice. Seeing a fighter everyone was sure would lose win, only to have everyone be sure they’ll lose again the next time out, and the next time, and the next time.

Dan Kelly wears that underdog role like a glove. The 39-year-old Aussie middleweight came to the UFC off the Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia as something of a feel-good story. A former Judo Olympian and national team wrestler who turned to MMA later than most, he was the kind of fighter pegged to peak with a scrappy UFC win (maybe even two) before fading out of the sport. Only he’s won 5 fights in the big show now, and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

“I think I've shown now that just about every fight I have to dig deep to get over the line,” Kelly told the assembled media after beating Chris Camozzi in Melbourne, Australia. “I might not be the most skillful guy in a whole heap of areas, but I make up for it in the capacity to push forward. And I take a little bit of damage and keep going. That was no different today. I was very tired at the end of this fight, but it was fine. Except for [points at cut]... this is more cosmetic than anything. He didn't hurt me on the feet at all. He didn't kick as much as I thought he would. His jab was always in my face, but it wasn't damaging at all. The elbows obviously caused a lot of the damage. And I think I hit him a lot with my cross. So, I think I won and made him more worried standing than he expected. I think that surprised him a little bit.”

And with that latest win, Kelly addressed fans and media interested in just how far he sees himself going in his MMA career. To hear him tell it, whatever doubters may say, Kelly is ready to fight until his body won’t let him.

“There's no ceiling,” Kelly responded, when questioned about his future. “There's no ceiling at all. And guys in the media, some of them say, ‘He should retire. He should do this and that.’ Even after my last fight. There's no ceiling. We'll keep going, I keep improving. My striking's improving, I came to it late. Everything's going along okay. I've said before, as long as my body holds up I'll keep going forward. I'm on a 3-fight win streak now. Everything's going alright. They're exciting fights, so no ceiling.”

“Look, I'm older,” Kelly continued. “I'm 39. Apparently I move like a robot and someone who can't strike. Camozzi's what... That was his 18th fight in the UFC? And I was as comfortable in there as he was. So, I hope they keep underestimating me and keeping me the underdog. I'm happy with that. And if I keep fighting better guys, it's going to happen. Every time I come up against someone, they're going to say, ‘Ugh, I don't know how he still keeps doing it!? Oh, there's some kind of mystery. What's going on?’ And that's fine with me. Just keep making me the underdog and I'll keep carrying on.”

Adding to his confidence, Kelly stated that he’s at the point where he deserves a shot at a ranked opponent. With a 5-1 overall record, it’s hard to deny that he’s on the cusp. He didn’t call out any particular names, just anyone in the top 15. If he gets that step up, he’ll almost certainly be the underdog once again. But, that seems to suit him just fine.