For many North American martial artists, the epitome of competitive success is simply three letters, U, F, and C. While a debate circulating the validity of this assertion could be easily made, it is the reality representing the perception. This perception becomes hard to swallow for the fighters chewed up and spit out by the MMA marketing machine. Some drift away from competition following short stints with the UFC, less stick with the sport. Chris Kelades is one of the less.
Quick UFC Stint
Not unlike many others, Kelades wasn’t happy with his UFC tenure. The flyweight did not feel mistreated by staff or executives. The only thing that bothered him about his time with the organization, was the length of his employment. Kelades fought four times for the UFC. His record in the octagon, 2-2. An even record doesn’t carry much weight at negotiation tables yet, looking further into the record of Kelades grants understanding towards his frustration.
In order, his UFC opponents are as follows: Paddy Holohan [Victory, UD], Ray Borg [Defeat, Sub-R3], Chris Beal [Victory, SD], Sergio Pettis [Defeat, UD]. Kelades time with the UFC took place between 2014 and 2016.
Despite the results of the four contests, three of Kelades opponents are considered (or were at one time, i.e. Paddy Holohan) top ten in the organization if not the world.
“On one regard it’s nice to know you have that respect and at the same time you’re like, ‘but you’re not getting that respect.’ That was the biggest thing when I didn’t a renewed contract with the UFC. The two guys I lost to in the UFC were top 5. One of them has already fought for the belt. So it’s kind of like you don’t really feel like you are getting that respect but on the numbers side of it, you do get it. You just don’t get the recognition from the people that you want it the most so it’s a double-edged sword,” Kelades told MMASucka. “It’s cool because it’s opened up these doors where I’ve been able to get some other fights outside and keep going and doing what I love to do so it’s been positive in that regard.”
Fighting Past the UFC
While his UFC experience didn’t go the way he desired, his time with the organization opened doors. Admittedly, Kelades didn’t believe he would go on fighting past his UFC contract expiring. But leaving a sport he dedicated so much time and effort towards was all but easy to walk away from. That being said, he wasn’t joining any promotion in order to only continue feeding his competitive spirit.
“One of the prerequisites that I said I wanted to pursue [was to travel] if I was going to keep fighting because obviously, the money isn’t exactly what the UFC is so there’s got to be some kind of other intangibles that are there to experience. So being able to travel and see the world and just have new experience was definitely something that I wanted to entertain for sure.”
Currently, Kelades fights for the Russian promotion, M-1 Global. He fights on Friday’s M-1 Challenge 97. The originally scheduled opponent, Vadim Malygin, withdrew due to an injury in early September. Instead, Kelades faces the 19-year-old Sergey Klyuev.
His battle against the young Klyuev is his third fight with the international organization. Thus far, the experience is all that he hoped it would be. Kelades feels respected and appreciated by the organization regardless of the outcome of his fights.
“It’s a great experience to travel and see the world. They treat the fighters really well. I guess it’s a difference of being in the west vs everywhere else in the world. It’s not so much about winning and losing as it is the respect for everybody that competes. They’re sportsmen and that’s how they approach it.”
At the moment, there doesn’t seem to have been a better landing spot for Kelades post-UFC than M-1 Global. Not only does he get to fill out pages on his passport and have a deep feeling of value from the organization, with M-1 Global he has a direct path back to the UFC.
In July, news spread detailing a partnership between M-1 Global and the UFC. In this partnership, M-1 Global acts as a Russian scouting mechanism for the UFC. Also, M-1 Global champions have the option of signing with the UFC upon meeting certain requirements.
“I think in my mind if it happens it happens. I just want to keep doing what I love to do. If it leads to that road then that would be great. It would be great to get another crack there and go out that way. But if it doesn’t happen I still had some pretty great experiences there… It was definitely a great experience and if it happened again it would be cool.”
With or without the UFC, Chris Kelades has the fairytale ending that athletes across the spectrum of less interesting sports seek. Of course, another shot at some of the best flyweights in the world is welcome but in the bigger picture of life, he is content.
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