Rumble, old man, rumble. Dan Kelly has been on the warpath in the UFC’s middleweight division. What started with an inauspicious run on TUF Nations (Kelly was subbed in under a minute by Sheldon Westcott in his only fight on the show) has turned into a UFC career that’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. Maybe even including Daniel Kelly himself.
In an interview with Submission Radio, Kelly revealed that his success in MMA is starting to drive away some of the disappointment he felt over his Judo Career.
“This is one of the big ones,” Kelly said of his win over Rashad Evans. “This is one of the really, really big ones. I said in a post-fight interview thing that I did, that in Judo I beat some world Olympic medalists and got close to winning a medal myself and never quite got there, and beating guys like Rashad and starting to move up is kind of washing away some of the – not regret, but some of the disappointment. I didn’t quite get a world or Olympic medal, this is starting to push that away as I’m progressing along. So it’s like a new life for me. So this was a really big one because it was under a bit of pressure that I put on myself, on a massive card, and people again didn’t expect me to win really. So yeah, massive, massive, massive, massive win.”
And while beating Rashad may have been a huge deal to Kelly personally, it doesn’t sound like it was a fight he found particularly difficult. The Aussie said that Evans didn’t hold any surprises for him in the bout, excepting maybe that he didn’t hit as hard as Kelly expected.
“No. To be honest,” Kelly told Sub Radio when asked if his UFC 209 fight held anything unexpected, “he didn’t hit as hard as I thought he would – which was good – and everything else was pretty much as I expected. I implemented my game plan pretty much how I wanted. I would have liked to have taken him down, but man, he was like a cat. I chopped his legs down, he’d land on his front. Then he’d be springing straight back up and I swept his feet out and he landed on his bum and he jumped straight back up. Like, he was really athletic. He was also very flexible. I caught one of his high kicks and thought, “oh beautiful, I’m gonna take him down, get him down,” then he managed to squirm out of that. So he’s super athletic. Like, super, super athletic. So that was even more so then I thought. But yeah, they were the main things. He didn’t hit as hard and he was harder to put on his back than I’d hoped he’d be.”
So, what’s next for Dan? Mostly it sounds like he’d like a crack at anyone in the top 5.
“(Fighting) Vitor would be awesome,” Kelly agreed, when asked about the potential mathcu. “Look, outside of the top six – well now we’ve got GSP who’s thrown a spanner in the – not a spanner, he’s made the title picture a little bit more interesting. So you got Bisping, GSP, Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold, Jacare, Rob Whittaker, Mousasi, they’re all fighting for the title thing at the moment. Anyone down from that I’d be happy to fight, more than happy to fight.”
“Anderson Silva’s everyone’s dream to fight him, isn’t it?” Kelly continued when asked if he’d consider a fight with the former middleweight king. “So outside of everyone going, ‘I want to fight Conor McGregor,’ Anderson Silva would be awesome. Another former champion, same as Vitor, but Anderson would be really cool. But we’ll see what they offer me in the next week or so. As long as it’s a ranked guy, I don’t really mind.”
The UFC is headed to New Zealand for the second time in the promotion’s history in June of this year. That should be far enough out to give Kelly a crack at a ranked middleweight. Whether or not he’ll be able to get a crack at the top 5 off his win over Evans remains to be seen.