The countdown is on, and the anticipation is palpable. Come September 29, Danielle Kelly, an American submission grappling sensation, will lock horns with Cambodian-American phenom Jessa Khan at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. At stake? The inaugural ONE Atomweight Submission Grappling World Title, a bout that promises to electrify fans tuning into ONE Fight Night 14.
While the atmosphere is already crackling with excitement, the stakes have never been higher for Kelly, a standout from the renowned Silver Fox BJJ gym. The grappling ace is not just chasing victory; she’s seeking redemption and a golden opportunity to assert her prowess on a global stage. Kelly, who recently turned 27, is leaving no stone unturned in her preparation.
“August 🍂 this was probably the first summer I didn’t go anywhere or enjoyed anything since I’m in camp(hence only training stuff😅). So it was for sure boring but a worthy one🏼 can’t wait for my match.” she wrote in an Instagram post that offers a window into her relentless dedication.
Her journey to this monumental bout has been paved with resounding triumphs, the most recent of which saw her defeat Ayaka Miura of Japan in February. Coming off back-to-back wins, Kelly is steeled for her biggest challenge yet—snagging 26 pounds of championship gold.
But don’t let Jessa Khan’s ONE Championship debut fool you into thinking she’s an easy adversary. Fresh from capturing a gold medal at the 2023 IBJJF World Championships, Khan is bringing an electrifying blend of skill and confidence to the mat. Her accolades are a testament to her combat prowess, making her a formidable rival.
The tension between Kelly and Khan isn’t a mere byproduct of their upcoming fight; it’s rooted in a shared history. These two fighters first crossed paths in 2021 during a U.S.-based submission grappling event, where Khan edged out Kelly after a high-octane 15-minute battle. At that time, Kelly admits she was weighed down by nerves and distractions. “I was too much into the media. I was too much into like, ‘I’m really like, nervous. I’m nervous to like go against a high-level grappler.‘ And I guess she was one of the first few that I went against, and you know, now my mindset is really different,” Kelly confessed in an interview with onefc.com.
Fast forward to 2023, and it’s evident that Kelly has metamorphosed into a more mature and focused athlete. She has since scored some of the most pivotal wins of her career, including a string of victories under the spotlight of the ONE Championship platform. “I feel like I know her game really well. My exchanges, my defence, my offence is gonna be way ahead of her and whatever she gives me, you know, I’m gonna give her something back,” she says, highlighting her growth and preparedness for the upcoming bout.
Contrary to what her extensive ONE Championship portfolio may suggest, Kelly sees herself as the underdog in this fight. Yet, that’s not a tag she shies away from; it’s a mantle she embraces. “I feel like I train with the best, and I’m gonna prove that you don’t have to be a World Champion to be better than anyone else. She’s probably the favourite in this match, and I’m gonna prove that, you know, I’m not a World Champ, but I think I can submit her. She’s beatable,” she declared.
And Kelly isn’t just planning on defeating Khan; she intends to do it in grand style. Whether it’s executing one of jiu-jitsu’s most audacious moves, the spine-snapping twister, or securing a classic rear-naked choke, Kelly is gunning for a memorable finish. “I really want a twister because I know she got twisted before, so I’d really like to do that. The first grappling match to pull off a twister on her or, you know, take her back and choke her out. One of the two,” she enthusiastically added.
Danielle Kelly isn’t merely in this fight to win; she’s here to dazzle, to leave an indelible imprint on the grappling world, and to seize a crown she believes is rightfully hers. As the days inch closer to September 29, anticipation hits fever pitch. Danielle Kelly and Jessa Khan are ready to ignite the mats in a clash for supremacy, where legacies, redemption, and ONE Championship gold are all on the line.