In Brian Kelleher, the MMA world found an excitable guy who in the hysteria of winning his UFC debut against a Brazilian fighter in Brazil, with the adrenaline flowing, worked the microphone like a promo-cutting veteran looking to sell his next fight.
The regular world knows a different Kelleher.
“I’m very low-key,” said Kelleher, 30, of Selden. “I like nature, I like going out to the beach, just hanging out and keeping it low key. I don’t really go out to the bars or anything like that. That’s not my style. I’m more of a homebody.”
With his euphoria on display during his post-fight interview, which aired live on FS1 last month during the UFC 212 prelims, both worlds saw the next step in Kelleher’s pursuit of his singular dream. He submitted Iuri Alcantara in the first round via guillotine choke.
Kelleher then called out UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby for a $50,000 performance bonus, asked to be fed more sharks and informed the Brazilian crowd that he just beat one of their hometown guys.
Rather gutsy approach for a guy with 108 seconds of time spent in the UFC’s octagon.
“I have one vision and that’s to become the world champion,” he said after a recent training session at Long Island MMA in Farmingdale. “All I do is think about my next training session. While I’m training my first session, I’m like, ‘What am I going to do the next session?’ That’s all I’m thinking about. I’m just dedicated, disciplined and ready to take this to the top.”
Kelleher takes his next step against Marlon Vera (9-3-1) at UFC Long Island at the renovated Nassau Coliseum on July 22.
Kelleher (17-7), who fights out of Maxum BJJ in Centereach, was born in Oceanside and grew up in Selden. He never wrestled in high school, something of a rarity of American mixed martial arts fighters – even more atypical for a fighter from Long Island. Team sports were big with Kelleher growing up.
“Once I got into fighting, the feeling of victory after all the hard training, it was unexplainable,” Kelleher said. “It was like no other sport I’ve ever been in. I think that kind of kept me going and now it’s my life.”
Kelleher hadn’t fought in more than a year before his June 4 UFC debut. He knew his sport’s top promotion eventually would contact him for a fight, a high-risk play that certainly brought its share of rewards in the past two months.
One fight into his first stint in the UFC and he gets booked on his hometown card, which just so happens to be the UFC’s first event on Long Island (and its fifth in New York since the state legalized MMA in March 2016).
“I’ve always been booed, I’ve always fought the hometown guy, I’ve been the away guy,” Kelleher said. “But finally we’re coming home to fight in front of my friends and family. It’s going to be a surreal feeling. I think it’s going to be even more special than my debut, just for that fact that everyone that’s been supporting me over the years is going to be there in attendance.”
|BRIAN KELLEHER’S UFC FIGHT HISTORY|
|June 3, 2017||UFC 212||Iuri Alcantara||Won by submission, Round 1, 1:48|
|July 22, 2017||UFC Long Island||Marlon Vera|