Danielle Kelly is confident ahead of her submission-only match against Jessa Khan at ONE Fight Night 14 on September 29.
The 10-minute, submission-only contest is a rematch of their 2021 encounter that took place at Who’s Number One (WNO). In that match, Khan – competing for the first time as a black belt – largely dominated position and scored the most credible submission threats on her way to winning a decision.
Now two years later, Kelly finds herself 3-0 in ONE and grappling with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Despite her pristine record in the organization, the 27-year-old has yet to face a BJJ competitor of Khan’s caliber.
For Kelly, a win over the reigning IBJJF world champion in Khan would silence any remaining critics who doubt her status as one of the planet’s grapplers.
“This is my time to really prove myself and stamp my jiu-jitsu accomplishments and prove that I really belong here,” Kelly said in an interview with ONE Championship.
The Karel Pravec black belt admits that she’s likely the underdog against Khan. But despite her defeat in their previous match and her foe’s accomplishments on the IBJJF circuit, Kelly comes into the match with a chip on her shoulder and loaded with confidence.
“She’s probably the favorite in this match, and I’m gonna prove that, you know, I’m not a world champ, but I think I can submit her.” Kelly said. “She’s beatable. So that’s what I’m gonna prove.”
Looking back on their 2021 WNO contest, Kelly says she wasn’t in the right mindset.
Because even though Khan was then a rookie black belt, she was one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory after an incredibly successful colored belt career.
According to Kelly, the hype surrounding Khan, coupled with the added media that came along with competing on a premier event, led to anxiety and underperforming.
“I was too much into the media,” she recalled. “I was too much into like, ‘I’m really nervous. I’m nervous to 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 is adamant that she has honed her competition mindset over the past couple of years.
By that same token, she’s dismissive of Khan’s evolution as a grappler:
“I feel like I know her game really well. My exchanges, my defense, my offense, is gonna be way ahead of her as to whatever she gives me, you know, I’m gonna give her something back. You know, I train with really tough people, really tough girls… I I have an idea what she’s gonna throw at me and I’ll be ready. I don’t think she’s gonna – I think she’s kind of the same as last time, so we’ll see.”
How to watch: ONE Fight Night 14 takes place on Friday, September 29, and will air live on Prime Video (free with Amazon Plus subscription) beginning at 8 PM ET.