At just 26, Danielle Kelly is already a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is quickly becoming a star of the grappling scene. If the future plays out the way she expects, Kelly might soon be putting on a pair of MMA gloves, as well.
“I am thinking about MMA,” Kelly said. “I mean, I’ve been training striking and everything since before the pandemic, but I haven’t taken a fight. I’ve been offered a lot, but I just want to feel ready, and my coaches, if they feel that I’m ready, then I’ll have a fight soon, hopefully.”
Representing Silver Fox Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kelly was awarded her black belt by Karel Pravec in 2020. She’s earned added notoriety since, staying active in competitions, including a submission win over multiple-time IBJJF world champion Sofia Amarante in the headlining match of July’s FURY Professional Grappling 1.
“I thought it was a really well-run show,” Kelly said of the debut event. “I liked everything about it – the mats, how the stage was set up. Everything was really cool. It felt like a big grappling show, and that’s what it’s on its way to being.
“It was just really cool to compete again and be on UFC Fight Pass because I feel like I’m getting to showcase women’s jiu-jitsu.”
As Kelly’s martial arts journey continues, she said she’s found the idea of bringing women’s jiu-jitsu to the forefront rewarding, in itself. Win or lose – though she seems to do a lot more of the former than the latter – Kelly says she enjoys the thought of inspiring others to be their best, as well.
“I think I do help bring attention to women’s grappling,” Kelly said. “But also what means more is I hear about young women and young men from their parents, and they’ll let me know that their daughters or sons are watching me. I feel like that matters more than just what I accomplish. I feel like I’m doing my part when I know that I’m inspiring young people like that.”
Kelly gets another opportunity to shine in the co-main event of Friday’s FURY Professional Grappling 2, which streams live on UFC Fight Pass from Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena as part of a dual-event weekend for Cage Fury Fighting Championships, which also hosts CFFC 102 on Saturday.
Kelly faces reigning IBJJF no-gi world champion Cathryn Miller in the night’s co-main event. Miller is currently ranked as a purple belt, but Kelly believes that doesn’t mean much in a no-gi matchup.
“I trained with her probably once, years ago when she came to visit Silver Fox,” Kelly said. “I’ve seen a lot of her videos and everything. I’m going to take her seriously. Belt color doesn’t matter in no-gi. I’m just going to do what I do. I don’t care who is in front of me, whether we’re friends or not.”
Kelly is especially excited for the opportunity to perform at FURY Professional Grappling 2 because the card features a number of MMA notables, including top UFC bantamweight contender Merab Dvalishvili, top Bellator lightweight contender Sidney Outlaw, Strikeforce and K-1 veteran Gesias Cavalcante and recent UFC signee Jasmine Jasudavicius, among others.
Kelly believes the lineup will be heavy on entertainment.
“This show is going to bring a lot of exciting matches, I’m sure,” Kelly said. “I know Merab will bring a lot of eyes, and I know a lot of people who watch MMA really like watching their favorite fighters compete, and I always feel like the MMA fighters bring a lot of action. The pro jiu-jitsu guys sometimes will just pull guard and then just sit there, so I feel like this will be more exciting than just ones who are just trying to play by the rules.”
Soon, those same fans may have an opportunity to watch Kelly step out of her comfort zone and into an MMA cage, as well. While she’s competing at 115 pounds at FURY Professional Grappling 2, Kelly thinks her frame is more suited for atomweight if she makes the move to MMA.
But regardless of what the future holds, Kelly says she will always be passionate about her jiu-jitsu roots and doesn’t see herself walking completely away from the grappling scene anytime soon.
“I really love jiu-jitsu,” Kelly said. “I feel like it will be a part of my life forever, but maybe with grappling and MMA, I can do both.”
(This story first published at CFFC.tv)