Brian “Boom” Kelleher (16-7 MMA, ACB 0-0) waited for a call that never came.
The former Ring of Combat bantamweight champion waited 10 months for a chance in the octagon, heard the UFC was interested, but never received an offer.
Tired of waiting, Kelleher accepted an offer to fight for Absolute Championships Berkut. The 30-year-old will face Russia’s own Murad Kalamov at ACB 54 inside Manchester Arena in Manchester, England April 15, 2017.
“I was ready and would get offers, but was told the UFC had its eye on me, so my manager suggested to wait it out a little longer,” Kelleher said. “Now, it’s been a year since my last fight and I’ve been fight ready for 10 months now.”
In his last bout, Kelleher defended his ROC strap with a third-round guillotine choke against Julio Arce at ROC 54 May 4, 2016. It is a belt he won against Arce by majority decision at ROC 52 Sept. 25, 2015.
In January 2017, Kellher decided to take his talents elsewhere and explore fighting overseas.
“I beat all the top prospects around and here I am still, so after waiting so long, I decided to take the best opportunity outside the UFC. ACB reached out to me with a better offer than any regional promotion, even to defend a title,” Kelleher said. “You get paid nothing in this sport for all your sacrifice, but I’m happy with ACB’s offer and all I can control is to keep performing and winning”
Around the same time period, it seemed Kelleher’s UFC debut would come sooner rather than later. Kelleher spoke with UFC Bantamweight Joe Soto via Twitter about a possible spot at UFC Fight Night 105 in Halfiax, Novia Scotia, Canada Feb. 19, 2017.
Let's do it in buffalo my home state of ny @JoeSoto135 @ufc @seanshelby @danawhite @arielhelwani @MMAjunkie @Mickmaynard2 pic.twitter.com/uzhmux13TJ
— Brian Kelleher (@BoomBrian) February 8, 2017
The fight never happened.
“Joe Soto was down to fight me short notice,” Kelleher said. “I was told the UFC wanted to reschedule him, so I never got the chance then.”
Kelleher said he thought he did enough to earn his chance on the UFC roster after riding a six-fight win streak with four finishes. One of those finishes happened in front of UFC President Dana White.
In season one, episode one of “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight,” Kelleher knocked out Josh Robinson with a spinning back fist in the third round at ROC 53 Nov. 20, 2015. After earning the finish, the New York native rushed out of the ring and yelled at Dana White.
“I want my chance, please,” Kelleher said on the show.
His recent frustration stems from the UFC’s signing of Andre Soukhamthath. The former Classic Entertainment and Sports bantamweight champion joined the UFC to fight Albert Morales on short-notice at UFC 209 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada March 4, 2017.
Kelleher earned a unanimous decision against Soukhamthath at CES 28 March 13, 2015. Since the bout, Kelleher won his next four fights.
“I felt cheated when I saw that Andre Soukhamthath got signed before me. He straight up says it himself, I’m the best guy he’s fought yet,” Kelleher said. “He gets the chance over me when I already beat him five fights ago. I congratulate another man’s success, although it really stings.”
Like many fighters, his goal is to fight under the UFC lights. He continues to be patient, but in a different way than before.
Instead of waiting to hear from his manager about a possible signing, he is looking for one more win.
Over a year since his last fight, Kelleher will enter the cage. Like all the other times, Kelleher will try and make sure this is his last fight outside of the UFC.
“I never really stayed loyal to a regional promotions, I bounced around, taking hard fights that escalated my worth,” Kelleher said. “I knew my potential, but now it hurts me because no promotion backs me like these guys with padded records. The promotions want there champions to keep winning and be the next guy in the UFC.
By Connor Northrup