‘Her fanbase won’t help her’ – Mariia Molchanova fires back at Danielle Kelly

Multiple-time Sambo world champion Mariia Molchanova had harsh words for Danielle Kelly ahead of their submission grappling match at ONE on Prime Video 4.

Things are heating up between Mariia Molchanova and Danielle Kelly.

As the two grapplers prepare for their sambo-versus-BJJ showdown on November 18, Kelly hasn’t shied away from touting her own confidence, going so far as to predict a submission win in under two minutes.

But Molchanova – a four-time Sambo world champion – took umbrage to those comments and fired back in a recent interview with ONE Championship.

“Everything she says is mere words, and I prefer actions,” said the Russian. “I have respect for my opponent, but I won’t tolerate disrespect towards me. Those who speak much, do little.”

Despite her accomplishments at the highest levels of sport Sambo, Molchanova is completely new to no-gi submission grappling; she comes into the match against BJJ black belt Kelly as a sizable underdog.

Molchanova has done her research on Kelly, who holds notable wins over Jessica Crane and top UFC fighters Carla Esparza and Cynthia Calvillo. 

“I watched her as an opponent, studied her technique a bit. It’s something new to me, we watched her and prepared,” said Molchanova.

While both Sambo and BJJ are grappling-based martial arts, jiu-jitsu puts much more emphasis on ground fighting and extended exchanges on the mat, whereas Sambo specializes in takedowns, with a relatively short amount of time spent grappling on the mat.

Molchanova sees this difference and is ready to show that Sambo can match BJJ on the ground, technique-for-technique.

“And I will do everything that’s required of me to show that Sambists can demonstrate decent, flashy wrestling, not only in stand-up, but also on the ground,” she said.

Thus far, Sambo athletes have struggled against their BJJ counterparts in ONE Championship’s submission grappling division. First, Rodrigo Marello ankle locked Ruslan Bagdasarian in record time at ONE 161. One month later, Kade Ruotolo captured the inaugural ONE lightweight submission grappling world title when he submitted Sambo world champion Uali Kurzhev.

Even with Sambo’s poor track record, Molchanova is confident that she can shock the world and score a massive upset over one of the most popular female stars in grappling.

“Her fan base won’t help her after she enters the cage,” Molchanova said. “I have many aces in my sleeve she doesn’t even think about.”

Underdog or not, the Russian plans to attack Kelly with the same aggression and ferocity that brought her to the top of the Sambo world.

“See her in the ring, and let her tremble,” Molchanova warned. “I will fight to the end and run over her as a tank without stopping.”

How to watch: Kelly vs. Molchanova takes place on the lead card of ONE on Prime Video 4. The lead card will air live on ONE’s YouTube channel on Friday, November 18 at 8 PM ET, and the main event will be broadcast on Prime Video (subscription required).

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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