“It wasn’t fun” – Danielle Kelly started jiu-jitsu and MMA after “getting bullied a lot”

Rising star Danielle Kelly began her journey in jiu-jitsu and MMA after being bullied a lot in school. The Philadelphia native summed up her experience by saying, “it wasn’t fun.”

After the ONE Championship and Prime Video press conference in Los Angeles, Danielle Kelly spoke to Instinct Culture interviewer Denise Salcedo about what motivated her to take on jiu-jitsu in the first place.

Kelly said:

“Back in 2006, I was getting bullied a lot, so it wasn’t fun. When I started jiu-jitsu, I wanted to learn fighting – well, MMA – so, at the time, my old coach was telling me about jiu-jitsu and how you should learn it because if you get taken down, you need to know how to defend yourself. So I started jiu-jitsu then, did my first tournament after four months and fell in love with it.”

Watch the full interview below:


Like many ONE athletes before her, Kelly learned jiu-jitsu in order to fend off the bullies. She was easily picked on because she was smaller and quieter than most girls her age. It got so bad that Kelly’s parents enrolled her in jiu-jitsu classes for self-defense training.

As time went on, Kelly became so good with the artform that she eventually competed in her first tournament four months after she started her lessons. From the moment onwards, she was smitten by the sport.

The jiu-jitsu standout earned her black belt under Karel Pravec and competed against elite grapplers, including multi-time BJJ champion Sofia Amarante, Jessica Crane, and ONE newcomer Jessa Khan.

At ONE X this past March, Kelly dominated MMA legend Mei Yamaguchi in her promotional debut and won a US$50,000 performance bonus to boot. After tragically losing both her parents, Danielle Kelly is keeping their memory alive by following her dreams in jiu-jitsu and MMA.

Danielle Kelly wants her next match to be against “a high-level grappler”

Danielle Kelly told the media at the ONE Championship and Prime Video press conference that she wants her next grappling match to be against a high-level grappler.

The 26 year-old is hunting for a new challenge. Her last two matches were against MMA fighters with jiu-jitsu backgrounds: Mei Yamaguchi at ONE X and Carla Esparza at Fury Pro. Although the bouts were anything but lackluster, Kelly expressed in past interviews that she felt both women played it safe.

However, with ONE Championship’s dynamic roster, Kelly might not have to look for her next opponent any further.

Recent signings such as Jessa Khan and Amanda Alequin could be formidable challenges for her in the future. Meanwhile, MMA stars like Michelle Nicolini and Victoria Lee, among others, might also try to test their skills in the sport before Kelly fully transitions to MMA herself.


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