Former UFC fighter Paul Kelly announces retirement


Paul Kelly | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The man who welcomed Donald Cerrone to the UFC is calling it a career.

Former UFC fighter Paul Kelly announced his retirement Thursday, putting an end to a fighting career that began in 2005. Kelly, 36, delivered the news via Instagram, accompanied by a caption and a clip of Conor McGregor reflecting on his own career after UFC 257:

“I had my time and I would never change my path,” Kelly wrote. “MMA gave me a life I would never have dreamed of. Met people I would never have met. No drug can compare to the feeling of getting your hand raised after walking out for a [straightener] with 20K watching.”

Kelly compiled a 5-3 record competing for the UFC, most memorably being booked as the first man to fight Cerrone when “Cowboy” was brought over from the WEC. After a spirited contest, Cerrone defeated Kelly by second-round submission. That clash won Kelly and Cerrone a $75,000 Fight of the Night bonus, one of two Fight of the Night awards that Kelly won in his time with the UFC.

The Cerrone fight turned out to be Kelly’s last for the UFC as he was subsequently released and then went on to win two of his next three fights. In 2013, Kelly’s career came to a halt when he was convicted of trafficking heroin in his native England. Kelly received a 13-year prison sentence, but was put on work release in 2017. His prison sentence was completed in 2019.

Kelly returned for one last fight at a Probellum show in March 2020. He defeated Simone Bottino by second-round TKO to close out his career with a 15-5 pro record.

“Winning is winning and for me now winning is making sure my family have bright future and to play catch-up for the last six and a half years spent away,” Kelly wrote. “I’ll miss fighting.”

Read Kelly’s unedited Instagram caption below:

This hit home… that mind set in his prime …Any fighter worth his salt can resonate with what’s been said here. We all had the same dreams on them lonely nights, the mind set to out work our opponent. We commit our life and our best years to a sport. Lads holidays, nights outs, all in the past moments missed. Every fight we leave a little part of us in that cage/ring.

I had my time! and I would never change my path. MMA give me a life I would never have dreamed of , Met people I would never have met. No drug can compare to the feeling of getting your hand raised after walking out for a straighter with 20k watching.

At some point we have to let go, I was full committed to trying one more time with the gaffer @teamkaobon to win a British title. Covid has taken another year so am calling it a day.

My life is on a different path now, one that means I can’t commit my life to fighting anymore like my opponent will be.

Winning is winning and for me now winning is making sure my family have bright future and to play catch up for the last 6 1/2 years spent away. I’ll miss fighting.

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