Ep. #52 – Daniel Kelly

Daniel Kelly is the owner and head instructor at the Resiliance Training Centre in Melbourne, Australia who previously competed as a mixed martial artist in the UFC middleweight division. He is a nine time Australian Champion, and competed in four Olympic Games in judo.


Daniel Kelly: Yes, so how have you been and how’s the the pandemic been treating you yeah horribly. We’Ve only just reopened the gym last week for a couple of weeks before that, our our high-level Pro guys were allowed to Train, and also we had our like our elite. Judo program start back, but the general public haven’t been in the gym. For part of me, over three months, have you been doing online coaching or anything like that, throughout the entire time and and how’s that, like horrible horrible, I hate I hate zum-zum, but I mean we had to try and deliver something to the to the members and And we’ve been lucky: we’ve got some really loyal members that have stayed on board, but yeah. It’S been a really hard time when people think of Australian in a major city, kickboxing is usually the one that comes to mind. You got guys like Dan Hooker and Israel out of Sonya, but resilience has had a lot of high-level UFC fighters in its own right. So talk a little bit about we’ll talk a little bit about those guys but Jake Matthews for one I’ve been a fan of Jake Matthews for such a long time and he’s probably one of the brightest up-and-comer fighters out of Australia. He looked really really impressive in his last time out against a meal week of what’s next for him and what’s your overall assessment of Jake Jake’s, awesome Jake and I have been friends a long time. I’M good friends with his dad he’s he’s just gone in to do some basic army training he’s to become an army reserve and when he gets back, we’re hoping second half second sorry and end of the year. He’Ll he’ll have another fight. Yeah he’s a he’s. A great talent, great talent, now there’s obviously some things to work on, but great time and human and Jimmy crew, who also trains with us as well they’re, both really really big prospects and Jake so experienced considering his story. So young he’s fine. I don’t know how many times already in the UFC it feels like he’s been forever and that’s switch from lightweight to Walter. Reed has really really done so many good things for doesn’t even look like the same guy. Like you look at those he’s like half his half the size, so he’s really developed into quite the welterweight yeah. Absolutely he was uh. It was a big big white cut, so it was a good time, makes him more durable for training as well, when you’re, making big weight cuts all the time it’s hard to train properly, actually like in a calorie deficit. So yeah he’s he’s big and strong and yeah we’ll see what happens after he does he’s five weeks basic training. So you mentioned Jimmy crew. Another up-and-coming prospect, I think, he’s actually younger than than Jake Matthews, if I’m not mistaken, but he’s in the he’s in a completely different division, where you’re only got killers are in light at light heavyweight. What’S next for him, he looked really really impressive in his last last fight and how far away do you think he is from top 15? I hope he has one more fight against an unranked guide before he steps back up again. There’S no rush for Jimmy he’s. Still he’s only about, I think, he’s only a year a year younger than Jake or two years younger than Jake, but he’s younger in his career than Jake is so see, I’m hoping hoping for him to have another fight against an unranked guy and then and then Fight someone in the top 15 from 10 to 15 and then yeah there’s no there’s no rush for him. In my opinion, you see a lot of these guys come in guys like Sean O’Malley coming in and they almost rush them. You know they have these high-level prospects. Darrell Darren tells another great example. What’S the message, I guess, as a coach and as a friend and as a mentor to these young guys who are trying to make a name for themselves and jump right there and fighting the fighting world beaters. Do you what’s the message? How do you keep them kind of like slow it down? Take your time, there’s no rush to get there. It’S a marathon not a sprint, that’s what I say a lot and and it’s about our making sure at each step, along the way that uh that they’ve got everything locked in the structures good before they move on to the next challenge and yeah. There’S no need, then, no need for those guys to rush at all and they are there. They seem to listen, seem to listen, but you know how young fighters are they they want to take on the world straightaway and they need to make a career out of this. So yeah. We’Re always saying take your time. It’S on so I’ll mention a couple. Other fighters and then we’ll get jump into your career a little bit so Callen Callen Potter. Another good friend of yours, he’s probably nearing the end of his career. His his last fight didn’t go the way, I’m sure he would have, or you would have what’s the message. I guessed it to him to kind of be like, like you know, you’re you’re 35. I think he’s 35 nearing the end of your career. Do you want to see him back in there or are you more on the edge of luck times? You know time is running out here. Well, what’s your message to him, I guess now I wanted to fight again Cal’s been a training partner of mine since I started and I’m not that sympathetic with age, considering I pretty much started MMA at about 35, so I’m like you’re still a young guy as Far as I’m concerned, I definitely want to see him fight again, but I want to see him fight in front of the crowd. I don’t want him to rush to to do one of these fight island or anything like that when we open up crowds again in Australia. I want him to fight fight again in Australia and then then he can make a decision. Then it’s a good opportunity for him to it’s harder with older athletes to change habits than it is with the younger ones yeah. So it’s good. It’S a good opportunity to change some habits and and for him to be able to move four men Cal’s an awesome athlete he’s he’s fought on the regional scene, everyone and anyone at lightweight and it welterweight and he’s one of the most deserving guys to get a Shot and and fight in the UFC, and definitely wanting to go out on a on a high note. So you mentioned fight Island and the the empty arenas as a coach and as a former fighter. What’S your thought on the UFC rushing things being like, you know what we don’t care if there’s a crab we’re just gon na put these events on and what’s your message to the fighters being like look, let’s rush in there, let’s get a fight or is it More, I know with Cal, you said you’d rather and wait, but for all your other fighters, is it more, let’s be conservative or is it let’s just go out there and get some fights it’s more for Jimmy and Jake it’s more picking the right fight. I mean it’s not it’s not about the timing or anything like that. There is considerations to take because we go all the coaches have got lives at home. If we have to go it’s eight or nine days in event in in a place, then we come back and then we have to if we have to do two weeks of our quarantine after that becomes a three four week turnaround and you’re. Like that’s a big time commitment, do we want to do that? Do we want to, or do we want to just if the right matchup comes, we take the right matchup, regardless of what’s going on, so it’s not so much a rushing or anything like that. It’S picking the right match at the right time for for those guys for their development. So when you think of MMA pioneers from Australia, you and Mark Hunt are two of the biggest names that come to mind. How does it feel to be mentioned? I guess from all these other MMA fighters coming up right now as a true pioneer of Australian MMA. They, I look back even further. There’S like George Sotiropoulos Kyle Noke Anthony Perosh, so I don’t actually think that I am one of the one of the pioneers. I just think when it became very no very, very popular that then I had some had some okay fights. I mean I was only in the UFC for what four years or something like that. It’S maybe five, my short, but you know it’s it’s good, especially because I started the sport so late after after my judo career, it’s it’s nice! It’S nice and marks marks a legend, a legend of the sport. So so it’s nice to be add nice to be mentioned in the same kind of breath as those guys yeah. So you talked a little bit about your judo career. A lot of people don’t know this, but your four-time Olympian as I correct. Yes, yes, four-time Olympian. Nine time Australian, judo champion and UFC fighter, like those three things like it, just makes no sense. It’S mind-boggling that you were able to do all those three things which of those is your proudest title: nine time, Australian, champion, four-time, Olympic representative of Australia or UFC fighter. The fourth, the four Olympics I mean I’ve been a that was my dream from when I was about ten years old to go to the Olympics, and I didn’t actually end up and I fought end up winning a medal or anything like that, but uh, but yeah That was always my goal and aim, and obviously the opportunity to fight in the UFC was was just another chance to test myself. But I kind of came laid up and it’s kind of hopefully built up the profile of Judo in Australia as well, because of because of that so, oh yeah, the Olympics is still still a pinnacle for me for sure, when you think of judo athletes, a transition To UFC there’s only a handful and only two that I can think of right. Now you Ronda Rousey and Abdul Razak al-hasan. Those are the only three I can think of. What do you think it’ll take before judo athletes start moving into MMA you’re, seeing a lot with wrestlers, but not so much with judo athletes it’s becoming harder now, because of how the the judo competition ruleset is. I mean there’s no leg grabs or anything like that. In judo anymore, so it becomes a little bit more difficult for the higher level judo guys to cross over to deal with the sprawl and and deal with basic wrestling stuff. Because I don’t encounter it the whole of their careers. And it’s which most judo guys. Who come across our old like I was so that pushed and gone to Olympics and whatever, and then go on to go on to the UFC late, whereas a lot of the wrestlers come out of college, they go okay. I can either go towards that Olympic kind of goal or I can move into MMA, so I think they go into into MMA a little bit earlier, with a little bit more, our fuel left in the tank and and not so many miles on the body. You Australian MMA, is really really look at after flourished, with guys like robert whittaker, and i know, is there a lot of sonya dan hooker? All these guys really putting, I guess, Oceana as a whole on the mat. What do you think it’ll take before you see a roster full of guys from Australia? Like you see from Brazil, the United States and Canada? Oh we’re getting there we’re getting a look, it’s still not huge in Australia mean we’ve got four guys. You forgot to mention been to solely as well who’s uh who’s contracted to the UFC. Well, we got four guys, but I mean everything’s on hold at the moment. Obviously, we’ve got. We’Ve got a really good group of guys, but it’s about it’s probably about getting the getting the local scene a little bit more structured and better to highlight what these guys can do on their pathways into moving into the higher level. I mean it’s still a little bit of the Wild West down here in terms of promotions, and things like that. Do you think, maybe having like a The Ultimate Fighter type thing like they did a while ago, where they had. I think it was Australia versus you know. Kingdom, do you think something like that would really help get these guys as shot in there or even have an Australia contender series type thing. Absolutely absolutely. It would help having the ultimate fighters great Johnny. The only problem with the Ultimate Fighter is not that not all the best fighters necessarily get in because the producers come in and and say, oh well, this guy is gon na, be true boring to be on the show. That’S why I was surprised I actually got onto the Ultimate Fighter, but I think they saw an old grumpy guy and when yeah we’ll throw him in there. But there were some other guys around who I thought were higher higher level than than some of the other guys, perhaps in the show, but never got in because of visa issues, or they weren’t, probably bubbly enough in their interview. So a contender start part of me, a contender style series or another Ultimate Fighter would help a lot. So your career, I was in the UFC – was really really impressive. If you have it an incredible win over Rashad Evans, former light heavyweight champion, does that mean a lot to you just being like I beat a former champion yeah, absolutely I mean the fact the fact when I, when I got into um it’s funny when I, when I was pushing to get into the UFC. I spoke to a Jake Matthews dad who I’m good mates with me and he’s like what do you want to do? Well, I said I want to have 10 fights in the UFC and I’m you remember, I’m 35. Nearly 36, when I’m saying this – and he was he like laughed – and I said what are you laughing at? That’S the aim, so I I got to that, but yeah, some big wins that won the win against true face a very good one too, against Chris Camozzi, who was really really experienced. So so I had some. I had some good wings here and it’s just now that I coach it gives a lot of a lot of backing to what I want to do and what I say, because I’ve been in there and and and done it with a lot of that. The higher level guys even the guys, like Jake who’s, now had more fights than I had in the UFC, but he’s like well yeah. You actually went in there and did it so so you have to listen a little bit more. Is there still a niche? I think you haven’t fought in three years now I think was at the retirement. Is there still an inch to be like I wanted to skip one more fight, one more fight, of course, there’s always a niche I’m 43 this year and I’m hoping the H goes away. I’Ve whacked on a bit of weight. You know I so, but it’s really difficult to find time to train myself when I’m obligated and and want to coach. You know, I’m I’m also in the national judo coach. All these guys, who are who have got a good team now pushing forward in the in the MMA class running my own business plus a family so uh my little bit time for now, but yeah. It never goes away, never goes away until you’ve done a couple of hard training sessions and you can barely move out of bed. That’S that’s when it kind of starts easing up a little bit. So so one of the messages you said that you had for Callum Potter was go out on a high note. Is that something you wish you were able to do was end your career with a win, maybe in front of a sold-out arena in Melbourne or Sydney or anything like that is it? Is that something you regret not being able to accomplish? I don’t think I don’t regret really anything I did in my career and it would have been nice, but I didn’t up that way. This is a business you have to. You have to accept, that’s why it is and yeah. It would have been awesome to have one more fight in Melbourne, but it didn’t happen that way. I I’ve got to coach guys to wins in Melbourne now as well and yeah. So it’s just ever-evolving, but of course you always, you always think you’ve got one more good fight left in. That’S, I think, that’s a natural being a competitor. There is a very controversial moment last weekend where max scoff, I’m not sure if you caught that flight or if you watched it a lot of backlash to Robert Drysdale who’s, very, very respected in the MMA and jujitsu community, where he didn’t stop the fight, or I Mean the fight was stopped, but it wasn’t by him, even though Roche, cop begged him, to stop it essentially as a coach and as a mentor and as someone who’s been in there. What’S your take on the whole thing, I think I think drawers dial did the right thing. I mean the guy. Wasn’T that badly damaged like it wasn’t one of those ones me aa. The referee should stop that yeah. He lost that. The first round was very competitive. The second round he gassed a bit, but but it’s it’s the call the fighter to quit, on the stool and and and dry-style did the whole right things completely yeah. I have no issue with any of that, and I mean gee it’s a bit harsh for all the backlash. It was a fighter’s call. He called it at the end of the day. He was clearly it clearly had the the mindset to want to quit knee also had the clarity to understand what was going on. Was it like get dragged back to his stool kind of thing? He had the clarity god I want to do this anymore and he might be that’s. That’S fine, alright I’ll, ask you I’ll, ask you one more question and then I’ll and then I’ll. Let you go obviously a lot of time to spend with your family throughout the pandemic, in quarantine and being locked up in the house. Is there anything you’ve been doing such as like is there any TV shows you’ve been watching? Anything you’ve been doing to occupy your mind with your family throughout the entire thing. One thing I did watch is the is the last dance, the jordan netflix inc. I grew up when Jordan was at his peak, and everyone wanted to be be, like my kind of thing watch that pup now it’s been really good. I started our year from our personal perspective was hard. My oldest son had a kidney transplant. I had four trips overseas by March as well, so we were flat out, and so it’s been a good good time to spend with a family and and not even reconnect, but just get into a little bit more of a normal structure and now obviously the gym. Opening this week we’re back to back to the chaos life again, I’m gon na throw in one more in there since we’ve mentioned kids, do you have a? Would you like your kids to potentially be fighters, or is that your thing you don’t want to see your kids do it? I don’t. I was against my kids watching me fight and they’re a little bit older. Now I would love to be now to make a walk without with one or both of them just to the cage now they’re a little bit older, but it’s completely up to them what they do I’ll support them in whatever they want to do. Obviously, there’s some non-negotiables like getting a tertiary education and things like that, but in terms of sporting pursuits I I will support them in whatever they want to do all right. Awesome. Thank you so much for the time man and thank you for for rearranging it, even though the time change be over completely different days, but I appreciate it man. I appreciate you taking the time and been a huge fan for a long time. So thank you and best of like with the gym best of luck with with all those fighters coming out of there now wise. Thank you very great chatting to you all right man. All the best yeah thanks, see ya. Bye,

Sergio Pineiro

Sergio Pineiro is the Founder of FighterPath.com and host of the Quarantinecast podcast. Based in Canada he is both a sports journalist and MMA enthusiast. He practices the sport but has a passion for the individual stories of training, fighting and living the fighting lifestyle.

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