You would, perhaps, be forgiven for having a negative perception of a child that dreams of excelling in combat sports. The lazy stereotype would be this child must be overly violent, uses their fists at any opportunity and ignores their studies to focus on fighting.
However, with Nate ‘The Great’ Kelly, you have someone whose school work hasn’t been ignored because of his talent within combat sport, it’s actually helped him hit the books as hard as he hits the pads…..
I first started kickboxing at 4. I was a really hyper child and my mam was looking for something so I could burn off some energy. I loved watching the old KungFu movies with my Grandad, I was never into TV but I really liked these. So my mam thought martial arts would be good for me and I was hooked from the very first class.
Then when I was 7 I saw some jits with uncle and wanted to do that too. So I joined the Straight Blast Gym and it was amazing from the start, I got to do Jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and boxing. I like to be free doing martial arts going from one style to another, I don’t like to be limited to just one of them. Martial arts comes in many forms, so that’s why I like MMA.
Training at the Straight Blast Gym is fantastic, it’s the family atmosphere that I love. When I first joined, it was just me and one other teen that competed for SBG.
From the off I used to go to jits competitions with the some of the pro team – Chris Fields, Paddy Houlahan, Ash Daly, Owen Roddy, and John Kavanagh.
I’ve been involved with SBG before it got so well known, so I used to go small halls to cheer for my team mates – Conor, Paddy, Chris, Owen. John used to say he could hear me screaming over everyone. I used to get to watch right at the side of the ring or one of the older lads would bring me out the back where they were warming up. They’ve always made me feel like part of the team/family. I would be in the gym training next to Conor at 10 pm when I had nationals or Worlds coming up and would ask John could I do extra training, he would always say you don’t need to ask, this is your home. It’s the family vibe that sets SBG apart.
I’m very focused on what I want to do, with MMA you have to do the training, you don’t just walk into the gym and into the octagon the next day, (if you do you’re in the wrong gym), you have to learn your trade just like a carpenter or plumber. From this, I have learned what you can achieve when you put in the time and effort. I’m very focused in school due to the level of discipline I have learned in MMA. It also teaches you respect and helps with concentration.
Also, I have to have all my homework done before training and keep good grades. So I know one doesn’t go without the other.
I think combat sports is great for kids, it teaches discipline, confidence, courage and respect. Any child growing up, to have this in their life is a great thing. It will also keep them fit and will give them confidence in hard situations, like someone bullying them or being mean to them. It’s not about having to get into a fight to stick up for yourself, it’s the confidence that a kid doing martial arts has to be able to walk away from something and not have to prove themselves.
Parents think team sports are the way to go but if you have a team of 18 and 8 kids can only play the other 10 sit on the bench and some might not even get on the pitch, that’s so bad for anyone’s confidence, never mind a child. My team mates are like family, there is a great bond in clubs in martial arts.
Ultimately I love what I do and what MMA has given me. If kickboxing goes to the Olympics –and it isn’t far off – I would try for that and then I will be ready to make my mark in the UFC.
I used to say when I was an 8-year-old I wanted to be better than Conor or anyone in UFC. But now I know there is one Conor McGregor and one Nate Kelly and I want to be the best person I can be. I think watching and learning from Conor, this is the biggest thing he has taught me – be yourself and believe you can achieve anything. I will work hard everyday until I get there.