British MMA pioneer and former UFC fighter Paul Kelly will no longer compete in the cage.

The 36-year-old from Liverpool announced his retirement from MMA in a lengthy Instagram post made Monday. Kelly (15-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) said his passion and drive to compete in MMA is not what it used to be. And with the coronavirus pandemic slowing the sport to a crawl, Kelly can’t afford another lengthy layoff at this stage in his career.

“I had my time! and I would never change my path. MMA give me a life I would never have dreamed of , Met people I would never have met. No drug can compare to the feeling of getting your hand raised after walking out for a straighter with 20k watching.

“At some point we have to let go, I was full committed to trying one more time with the gaffer @teamkaobon to win a British title. Covid has taken another year so am calling it a day.

“My life is on a different path now, one that means I can’t commit my life to fighting anymore like my opponent will be.
Winning is winning and for me now winning is making sure my family have bright future and to play catch up for the last 6 1/2 years spent away. I’ll miss fighting.”

Kelly last fought in March 2020, stopping Simone Bottino in the second round at Probellum 1: Liverpool. It was his comeback fight, as he had been away from the fight game for seven years due to a lengthy prison sentence for drug trafficking.

Kelly competed in the UFC from 2008-11. He entered the Las-Vegas-based promotion undefeated and fought several notable names at 155 pounds such as Donald Cerrone, Dennis Siver and Marcus Davis. Kelly also took home two “Fight of the Night” awards during his run with the UFC.

Kelly was one of the early fighters representing the U.K. under the UFC banner. He retires on a three-fight winning streak.

Below is Kelly’s full post announcing retirement: