(L to R) URCC featherweight champion Eric Kelly, ONE FC chief executive Victor Cui and URCC lightweight champion Honorio Banario pose for a photograph at the ONE FC: Return of Warriors press conference, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. Photograph supplied
ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s leading mixed martial arts promotion, yesterday announced what is arguably their most anticipated fight to date between Filipino champions Eric “The Natural” Kelly and Honorio “The Rock” Banario.
The bout for the inaugural Featherweight World Championship title will be contested at the ONE FC: Return of Warriors event at Kuala Lumpur’s 16,000-seater Stadium Putra on February 2.
Kelly, who uses acrobatic yaw-yan Filipino kickboxing and self-taught jiu-jitsu styles, remains unbeaten in his MMA career with nine wins.
Having defeated all of the top contenders, the 30-year-old has put himself in pole position for a chance at claiming the featherweight belt.
Banario, meanwhile, is the reigning URCC lightweight champion and a representative of the legendary Team Lakay from Baguio City.
The majority of Banario’s seven MMA victories have come from submissions, despite possessing powerful strikes from his favoured fighting style, the ancient Chinese martial art of wushu.
“Eric Kelly versus Honorio Banario for the ONE FC Featherweight World Championship could possibly the most demanded fight in Asian MMA history, and I know the fans cannot wait to watch these two champions clash in the cage,” ONE FC chief executive Victor Cui told reporters yesterday during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur.
The Return of Warriors fight card will be stacked with the best the Malaysian MMA world has to offer. Peter Davis, a kung-fu style fighter, who is also an actor and model with celebrity status in Malaysia, will face Indonesia’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Leo Krishna.
Fast-rising prospect Gianni Subba will look to ride the momentum of his stunning soccer-kick knockout debut in October when he battles legendary striker and muay Thai veteran Saiful Merican in an all-Malaysian match-up.
ONE FC will also be the host of a four-man Malaysian National Featherweight Championship Tournament to determine who will be the top contender for the national title.
The two bouts on February 2 will feature AJ Lias Mansor facing Jian Kai Chee and Melvin Yeoh coming up against Raymond Tiew.
Tune Talk sign sponsorship deal
In a major fillip to its operations, ONE FC have signed a sponsorship deal with Tune Talk, one of the fastest growing Malaysian mobile phone providers.
According to a press release from ONE FC yesterday, the agreement is a clear indication that the sport of MMA has hit the mainstream in Asia.
“Tune Talk and ONE FC are set to dominate the industry with innovative content and marketing initiatives that will bring world-class ONE FC action to fans of the fastest growing sport in the world,” read the release, which did not reveal any financial details.
Tune Talk chief executive Jason Lo said: “MMA is a very attractive, crowd-pulling sport and we see a lot of potential in it. Tune Talk is proud to be associated with MMA, and would like to be the first to help develop the sport locally.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Derbuc at [email protected]