Danielle Kelly has continued to make waves across the martial arts world and recently jumped onto the global stage of ONE Championship with a victory over Mei Yamaguchi that earned her a $50,000 performance bonus.
However, one of the biggest storylines around the young American talent is how she would fare in mixed martial arts. Kelly’s background includes wrestling, and she recently spoke to ONE about her beginnings in the sport, which gives her an excellent base for her future transition.
“I started wrestling after I joined jiu-jitsu, about six months later. I wrestled until my senior year or college freshman year. I was doing folkstyle in school, and I was doing freestyle outside of it because I was planning on going to college for freestyle,” said Kelly.
Danielle Kelly Talks MMA Transition, Receives Advice from BJJ Icon Marcus Almeida
Although the grappling star has teased a move into the sport, it is not something she is willing to jump into right away. Kelly understands she needs to become a well-rounded athlete if she wants to make the move, and she is at a stark disadvantage when the action stays on the feet.
The New Jersey resident continues to train in all aspects, but her immediate focus will remain on submission grappling matches in ONE.
“I have been doing my [MMA] classes right now. I’ve been getting back into sparring. It’s very humbling, just because the girls that I train with, they’re in other organizations, some of them are top 10 – and they’re really good at jiu-jitsu, too,” said Kelly.
“It’s going to be hard for me if I go against someone who has a [striking] background. I need to learn how to defend or strike. So that’s where I’m still putting the pieces of the puzzle together. But it does give me hope. I just have to keep myself humble and not think that, just because I’m good at grappling, I’m going to beat up everyone.”
Kelly did not need to look too far for inspiration about her hopes of moving into mixed martial arts. One of the most decorated BJJ athletes of all time, Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida, has recently made the switch and is already viewed as one of the world’s top heavyweights.
The American star had the opportunity to bend his ear at the recent ONE x Prime Video press conference in Los Angeles.
“We briefly talked when we were in LA. He told me he was a little nervous at first. It was new to him because he’s used to jiu-jitsu and the gi. He was just telling me it’s still new, but over time it’s kind of like jiu-jitsu. You get used to grappling through doing sparring rounds, so you can get used to MMA,” said the 26-year-old.
“The more you spar, the more you get used to getting punched in the face, and the technique battles from standing – because everything changes once you’re getting punched in the face.”
Kelly has set no timetable for her transition into mixed martial arts.