UFC 269: Tony Kelley Sees “A lot of Quit” in Randy Costa, But “I Don’t Have Any in Me”

UFC bantamweight Tony Kelley made the drive to Las Vegas this week, forgoing a flight due to conronavirus restrictions.

Kelley is set to throw down with another up-and-comer at UFC 269 on Saturday, Randy Costa.

Like many kids who got into martial arts, Kelley was a troubled youth getting into fights. But a friend was taking a jiu-jitsu class, and invited Kelley to tag along. When his pal — a “nerdy,” skinnier kid — was able to have his way with Kelley, the future UFC bantamweight had a fire lit in him. “I gotta learn this, you know? What is going on? It kind of struck my fascination.”

The Ultimate Fighter, meanwhile, showed that Kelley could have a career in fighting. His reaction to the show’s first season was “hey, you can make money fighting for a living. I’m like ‘yo, okay. Well alright, I’m already fighting people right now, so that sounds really good.'”

By 2010, Kelley, who thought he might turn out to be a musician, had taken his first amateur fight. A decade later, he made his UFC debut, where he’s 1-1 to date. “I think when you start out as an MMA fighter, this is the ultimate goal, this is the end goal for most people.” But there’s more to come for Kelley, starting with Costa this weekend.

Costa is seven years Kelley’s junior, and the Louisiana native remembers what that can be like. “Just being a little bit more fearless, and I guess reckless. Taking more risks. Just being a guy that comes forward and tries to eat, you know?”

Over the years, noted Kelley, “I think I’ve really matured mentally, also physically. I think I’m not as reckless as I used to be. Refined some elements of my game, but still have that dog in me.”

Kelley sees his upcoming opponent as a “gunslinger,” which should bring out the best in himself. “He comes out, he’s really aggressive, he’s not scared to fight, he’s trying to knock you out,” Kelley observed. “I like that. I applaud that. Because that makes me train hard, that brings the very best version of myself out. And that’s all I can ever ask for. I wanted to fight the best, and that’s why I’m in the UFC. I want to fight the best, and Randy is one of those guys. You can’t make many mistakes against a guy like Randy, because he’s going to make you pay for it— but I think he has a lot of quit in him. I don’t have any in me.”

And despite appearing on a stacked UFC 269 card, Kelley is aiming for a post-fight bonus. “I like my chances.”

Watch our full interview with UFC 269’s Tony Kelley above.