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Chris Kelades still 'ecstatic' after winning in storybook UFC debut

Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Chris Kelades was not a happy man when he found himself buying tickets to UFC Fight Night 54.

The company was making it's first appearance in Halifax, and the Nova Scotia-based flyweight wanted to be a part of the action.

"When my wife and I were buying the tickets, I was sitting there, upset," Kelades said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I was like man, I want to be fighting on this card, don't want to spend money right now to buy these tickets. In the end, it all worked out."

It sure did. Not only did Kelades end up fighting in the Octagon on Saturday night, but his fight with Paddy Holohan just about blew the roof off the Scotiabank Centre. Kelades capped a storybook tale by defeating Holohan in a thrilling match, then taking home a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus for his work.

"It's definitely a dream," Kelades said. "It's one of those things you think about in your wild imagination, but you never expect every intricate detail to actually happen the way it did. I'd be lying if I said I never thought about it happening this way, but, you never really expect it to, But, I'm definitely ecstatic."

Truth be told, Kelades thought he may have talked his way out of ever getting a shot in the UFC. Kelades passed on a pair of potential fights before the bout with Holohan came along, a calculated gamble at hoping the right matchup would come along.

"Even a few weeks before, UFC Connecticut, where someone got injured, and someone had contacted me about if I wanted to throw my name in to fight [bantamweight] Chris Beal at the time. I had just fought in July, I was beat up and nursing some wounds. I was like, I don't know, at a heavier weight, maybe I should just pass on it.

"Fast forward a few weeks, Mitch Gagnon's opponent falls out, and someone asks, do you want to throw your name in, let's see if we can get yourself on the card against Mitch. I'm thinking, the guy that's in Mitch's corner I just trained with a couple weeks ago, Mitch is a beast, I'm thinking, I don't know if that's really the right step."

Just as Kelades began second-guessing himself, news came down early in fight week that Holohan's opponent, Louis Gaudinot, had to pull out.

"I'm saying no again and I'm kicking myself in the ass thinking, can I actually say no again? This is my hometown. 15 hours later, someone sends a tweet to my coach about [Gaudinot] being out, and I'm like, get me on that card, get me against that guy, I'd love to fight that guy.

With that out of the way, a wave of harsh reality set in: He had quite a bit of weight to cut in the span of about four days.

"It was not something I ever want to do again," said Kelades, who indicated he was closer to 150 than 140, much less 126, when he accepted the fight. "And I really wasn't sure. we left the hotel, I was a little bit heavy, and I just wrapped it up and said, let's just go and see what happens. I couldn't do any more, we went right to last minute we possibly could. I guess we timed it perfect. I was ecstatic when it happened, We timed it perfect. I know, the way I fight, I'm ready a fight of the night bonus every time I fight. And I'm like, if I don't weight, how will I make a bonus? That's what I told my coaches, cant make money if not on weight.

"I don't know if I was surprised, of it was such a sense of relief. I've gotten to that point, I've never had a weight cut that, I've cut to catchweights before, then my last fight at 125 was kind of my first go there, but those are camps, where you have a little bit of time to trim down and you do it proper. No one wants to lose that amount, it's not healthy. I didn't want to not make weight."

Kelades did, in fact, make weight - and dealt with a lot of chirping from Holohan in the buildup. But Kelades had the last laugh in the cage, as he overcame a slow start and finished the fight with strong second and third rounds to win the bout.

The bonus money will come in handy. Kelades had been laid off from a job as a car salesman at the end of last year, and had decided 2014 was going to be his make-or-break year in MMA. As summer turned to fall, Kelades had started to think of other options.

"It was getting down to wire, I was like, I have to figure out school, work, fighting, you can't live off fighting in these small promotions," Kelades said. "Everything worked out. I wouldn't say I was considering hanging em up, but, you can't fight for $800-1000 or whatever every three months and expect to live. So I was thinking, do I have to go back to work full-time and then fighting, but it's hard to stay at a high level and work 40 hours a week and then step in a cage with someone who is potentially then training full-time for a camp. It's tough, it's a grind, but that's what you gotta do."

Now, he's a lot more likely to make this a long-term, full-time thing.

"The timing was kind of good, because I took that opportunity and I was like, you know what? This is the year to kind of run with this and do what I can. Everything kind of worked out, it's great."

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