When he was only seven, Eric Kelly's father used to punish him by trapping him in a sack with only a gap near his mouth so he could be fed.
Over two decades later, the 30-year-old professional fighter is no longer angry with his dad. In fact Kelly said he owes his father for pushing him to take up martial arts.
“My father gave me my passion to learn the many type of fighting disciplines,” the mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter told Yahoo! Malaysia.
The Filipino from Baguio City said his childhood was filled with unhappy memories of his father punishing him by beating him and sometimes punching him with bare fists or lashing him belts. The eldest of seven children, Kelly endured this pain and used it to his advantage.
The soft-spoken martial artist explained that his childhood experiences motivated him to learn different types of martial arts and offered him the opportunity to make something of himself.
“I started training in the gym and learned boxing and wushu, all to help me release tension and stress. I never retaliated when my dad hit me, because at the end of the day, he is still my father. I totally love him and I reversed that anger,” this Southeast Asian Games medallist said.
Besides boxing and wushu, Kelly is also proficient in acrobatic Yaw-Yan kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu.
The father of three made his MMA debut in 2009 by defeating Filipino fighter Robert Buminaag with a rear-naked choke at Universal Reality Combat Championship 14. Today, Kelly's father watches videos of his son's fights, and proudly shares the experience with his friends.
His colleague and expert in unorthodox Chinese Kung Fu, Peter Davis, also shared the many advantages he got from martial arts training.
He took up the discipline after facing personal problems and professional trouble during the Asian financial crisis.
As a sporty and lanky teenager, Davis was always interested in physical activities, beginning with mountain biking. When he was 20, he trained in Chinese Kung Fu or Wuji Chuan and was also discovered as a movie talent.
Davis, who has done modelling and teaches MMA in Kuala Lumpur, was cast in the role of Eric Tan in the 2008 movie, Sell Out!.
“MMA helps you gain more self-confidence and teaches you how to be reasonably safe in situation X or Z,” he said. Davis, who was born in Shoreham-by-Sea and grew up in Brighton, made his MMA debut in 2004 when he knocked out well-known Japanese fighter Masaya Doi.
Davis went into professional fighting as a way of teaching his students the right skills and values,
“It's to show them that I know what I am doing. I've always believed in the practical side of things.”
The 31-year-old father of one developed his own fighting style over the years, a skill that takes time to master.
“You have to find your own style, either through fights or sparring with good fighters so you can improve yourself.”
Davis and Kelly agreed that they would want their own sons to take up MMA. “My sons love it, they love sparring with me,” said Kelly, while Davis added that MMA was 'everything positive' except for a few scars.
Their health tips include eating brown pasta, brown rice and oats as well as exercising at any time even while watching television. Kelly revealed that his secret to a strong physique was to eat beef regularly as it was a good source of protein.
Both fighters are passionate about MMA and will be featured in ONE Fighting Championship's tournament in Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil next month. The event will see a Featherweight World Championship title fight between Kelly and Honorio Banario. This is Kelly's first fight in Malaysia.
Davis, who is also UK's Cage Fighting Championship winner, will take on Indonesia's Leo Krishna. Both fighters are signed under ONE FC, and will be representing their home country in the event. Fights will take place in a 2.8 metre-high cage, with a surface area of 71 square metres.
Davis promised to 'light up the stadium' and offer 'nothing else but the best' for audiences, while Kelly said he would give a good and exciting fight.
MMA is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of grappling and striking techniques, while standing or on the ground. These techniques are derived from other combat sports. For more information on ONE FC's upcoming tournament, please check out http://www.onefc.com.