Photo by Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
It was Sunday, September 28 when Chris Kelades, now a UFC flyweight, got the first call.
Born in Dallas, Texas but living in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, Kelades had spent the last few months working on his home and staying in shape in the gym. In late February he was released from his job as a salesman at a trucking company called Atlantic Peterbilt, and he’d essentially been killing time since then.
“Even two weeks ago, I was talking with my wife wondering what I was going to do,” said Kelades. “I figured I had until maybe Christmas and then we would have to figure out if I was going to find work or go back to school. The timing of everything was amazing.”
The call was from the UFC. They wanted to know if he would be interested in replacing the revolving door of opponents that had pulled out of their fight against Mitch Gagnon. Aljamain Sterling and Rob Font had both suffered injuries and they were desperate to keep Gagnon on the card as he was one of the few well-known Canadians competing that night.
But it didn’t feel right. That’s a high level opponent in a weight class heavier than where he wanted to be. Roughly 15 hours later, news broke that Louis Gaudinot had pulled out of his bout against Paddy Holohan and they were looking for someone. Enter, Mr. Kelades.
Although he wasn’t in training camp, he was staying in shape. Six days a week Kelades found himself in the gym, often doing two separate sessions throughout the day. He had been tapped as a potential replacement for a UFC card in Foxwoods, Connecticut in early September, but no deal was made.
“I had a good idea that my next fight was going to be short notice,” said Kelades. “I was thinking something like two weeks or three weeks, mostly because it had already happened, opportunities had been presented, but it had to be the right one.”
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
The average training camp for a professional fighter lasts somewhere between six and eight weeks. In that time, they hone in on their opponent, slowly lose the weight needed to weigh-in the day before the bout, and sharpen up specific techniques that will be of use for this particular bout.
“I thought the eight days’ notice against Malcolm Gordon (a Bellator undercard bout in May of 2014) was going to be the record,” said Kelades. “Five days is brutal. I just had enough time to make weight. If it was any shorter, I don't know how I would have done with the weight cut.”
For Kelades, it was all about making the weight. He weighed nearly 150 pounds on September 28, the day he agreed to the October 3 bout with Paddy Holohan.
For four days leading up to the weigh-in, Kelades was completely focused on making weight. He ate egg whites and a handful of spinach in the morning, combined with orange juice, water and green tea to keep him fuelled for his workouts. He had the same meal for dinner and each day, along with a low-carb drink after his night session of training. He spent a lot of time in a sweat suit and got to know the bathtub really well.
“I was operating on just enough to be alive,” said Kelades. “I was doing hard work to counteract the calories and bring my weight down.”
He was heavier than he would have liked to have been heading into the water weight cutting portion of his hyper-shortened fight preparation. As Kelades approached the stage the day of the weigh-ins, he didn’t know if he would make weight.
“I didn't even really think about the fight until I made the weight, to tell you the truth,” said Kelades. “It was super close. As we got to the arena, I told myself I did as much as I possibly humanly could and said it's either going to happen or it's not.”
Of course, it did happen, and he did win. Although he looked nervous early in the bout, Kelades quickly put a pace on Holohan he couldn’t keep and used his relentless top game to wear down his Irish opponent. After three rounds, Kelades walked away with a unanimous decision victory and a $50,000 bonus for fight of the night.
Having been unemployed most of the year, the bonus will take the place of his missing salary from. Although he’s got his eye on a new computer and a blender, the rest will go towards paying bills and preparing for a life after fighting.
The bonus and UFC contract delays his need to go back to school or get a mediocre day job. He can now focus on mixed martial arts full-time.
He hopes the days of fighting on a few days' notice are behind him, and he can have a full camp for bouts moving forward. A smothering grappler, Kelades will be looking to improve his striking and round out his game in the months ahead.
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