Danielle Kelly, like Gordon Ryan wants to keep building jiu jitsu and not just move to MMA.


Danielle Kelly rarely asks about a move to MMA. It’s almost as if this is a possibility for every high-level Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner.

To be honest, this seemed to be the most natural path for grapplers because, despite all the fame that comes with winning major tournaments in jiu jitsu, the financial rewards were usually very low. The landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, however, with promotions like ONE Championship putting grappling matches alongside MMA fights on major cards.

To add to that, Gordon Ryan just recently inked a 7-figure deal to compete only in grappling after he previously stated that he wanted to continue building Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a major combat sport, rather than just moving to MMA because that was the only way he could eventually make any real money.

” I actually agree with Gordon,” Kelly said to MMA Fighting before her match at ONE Fight Night 7 Friday. “I love what he’s trying to do for the sport. I know he just signed something that guaranteed him like $3 million. That’s something that’s never been known for a jiu-jitsu person.

” When I first started in 2006,, jiu jitsu tournaments did not have any $100 prizes or awards. So it’s pretty cool that spot I’m in. We can actually make a living off it. Times are changing. In the coming two- to five years, I believe jiu jitsu will reach the same level of MMA .”


Kelly stated that she did not feel pressure to make the transition to MMA in her career. However, it was something Kelly often thought about.

These days, Kelly is happy that promotions like ONE Championship are willing to invest in grapplers to the point where she doesn’t have to do anything else but focus on Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

“I know for a while I wanted to try MMA, but then I got these matches offered to me,” Kelly said. “Over the years, I began doing quite well [financially], and the idea of MMA was pushed back. I used to just concentrate on jiu jitsu as I would be offered big matches .”


Kelly’s grappling career has seen her enjoy many high-profile matches, with some coming up against prominent names in MMA. She’s earned wins over Carla Esparza, Roxanne Modafferi, and Cynthia Calvillo in grappling matches, and Kelly is always ready to add more big names to her resume.

“I’ve been very open about going against big names like Angela Lee,” Kelly said. Kelly said, “I knew another girl who was signed to jiu jitsu. I actually asked for Jessa [Khan], she’s more accomplished than me. That would be cool. To prove that I’m capable of submitting jiujitsu persons, I requested to be matched with her if I was on the U.S. Card.

“Whatever my opponents give me, I believe everyone enjoys watching exciting matches. I consider myself to be one of the best jiu jitsu players in my division. It doesn’t matter who has the eye in .”

Kelly adores the thought of facing Lee, the reigning ONE atomweight champion. However, due to her family tragedy, Lee lost Victoria Lee.

In the future, Kelly welcomes that opportunity or any other that will put the spotlight on grappling and the platform that ONE Championship is giving her.

” I’m open to it,” Kelly stated. I know that she makes 115. cuts. Although I don’t ask for it right now due to what is going on in her personal life, it’s something I believe would be very good.

“She’s a big name, I’m a big name. I think having a match together would bring a lot of eyes in for women’s grappling in general, especially on a stage like ONE Championship.”