Plans change and sometimes you have to just deal with what you have been given. Case in point being Paul Kelly’s upcoming fight at UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort. Originally slated to face Sam Stout – a former opponent of teammate Terry Etim – he then had to readjust his game plan for a new opponent in WEC veteran Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
“I think this is going to be a very exciting fight between us,” the Liverpudlian told MMAWeekly.com. “We both like to stand and trade, so I think this will be a one of those fights where the fans will be really entertained.”
Cerrone is known as a hard-nosed striker, but also a dangerous opponent on the ground. He is also one of the new wave of lightweights coming into the promotion following the integration of the WEC, putting the division on alert for their job security. Kelly isn’t too worried about getting a pink slip though.
“Everyone is fighting for their career. Even fighters with momentum, you’re only as good as your last fight, and the way I look at it is that this sport isn’t about us it’s about the fans. If you want a job, you gotta entertain them and leave it all in the cage.”
It’s an interesting view, very gladiatorial, very much harkening back to the Roman Empire days of fights in the Colosseum. Kelly approaches this fight with his focus solely on his opponent, although he is surprised that Cerrone doesn’t appear to be taking him seriously.
“Cerrone should just come to fight me and stop worrying about Cole Miller,” he stated, adding with intent, “I am gonna be in the zone and I hope he is too. I think that to look past an opponent at this stage of the game is ridiculous. I have nothing else on my mind but him.”
Smack talk leading up to fights is becoming as much a staple of the sport as making weight. Some guys have genuine heat, others are selling a fight, and some even have a point to prove. Kelly believes he sits squarely in the latter category and that all the talk from Cerrone about Cole Miller means that he is being overlooked.
“This fight won’t end the way he wants. I will win this fight. This will be my ninth fight in the UFC and I have earnt my respect. I have been there, fought hard, and broken things along the way. I am still learning, but I am extremely confident that I will take this win. He says he doesn’t know anything about me, but come Feb. 5, he will respect me.”
Sounds like all the ingredients are in place for a stand-up war, although Cerrone has proven to be a wily customer on the ground, picking up 11 submissions and five “Fight of the Night” honors in his MMA career. Kelly believes that his opponent will be looking to throw hands early on, but it won’t last the whole fight.
“I would love him to stand with me, if he fancies that, let’s do it. Let’s throw it all on the line and walk out with our jobs intact, but realistically I think he will try to sub me.”
Kelly also thinks that because opponents haven’t seen much of him on the mat, maybe there is an opening in his game there.
“I have only been subbed once in a fight and I didn’t turn up with the right frame of mind that night. I won’t go to sleep in the gym and I won’t go to sleep here, so he will have to find another plan!”
Looking ahead to UFC 126, Kelly is confident that both teammate Paul Taylor and himself will be setting the tone for Team Kaobon this year with two solid victories, himself over Cerrone and Taylor over one-time antagonist Gabe Ruediger.
“I really have no idea what Ruediger’s problem with me is, talking (expletive) about me out when someone like Taylor is looking to take his head of is a very silly mistake. I know we were meant to fight once, but he got his period and bailed five weeks out. He should remember to bring his tampons and focus on the fight in front of him with (Taylor). After the way he got blasted by Joe Lauzon, I would have thought he would be keeping a low profile.”
Confident, fully prepared, and ignoring distractions from other fighters, Kelly is all set for business with Donald Cerrone on Feb. 5 and plans to make 2011 a solid year of progression through the lightweight ranks.