“It’s been about a year since I signed with ONE and I still haven’t gotten a fight – [because] me and my professor were pretty picky about who I’d want to fight,” Jessa Khan reveals. Khan and I on a Zoom call discussing her upcoming rematch against former WNO opponent and current ONE Championship grappling superstar Danielle Kelly.
Kelly, incidentally, was the athlete that Khan and the AOJ coaching team finally accepted as a worthy opponent. “They offered me Danielle this year, right after I won [IBJJF] Worlds,” Khan tells me. “And I thought, ‘You know what? I really want to fight.’”
As luck would have it, Khan’s debut on the ONE Championship stage will also see her fighting her old WNO foe for ONE’s first ever women’s world title in submission grappling. It’s a history-making opportunity, and one that’s got Khan particularly excited.
“That made [the offer] even better,” she says, smiling.
Khan also has a lot of respect for her once and future opponent, who cites Kelly’s well-honed mobility and range of motion as one of the biggest challenges Khan had to deal with in their previous matchup. “I do see her winning a lot of [ONE Championship] fights, and she looks really good in those matches,” observes Khan.
However, Khan’s also quick to point out that Kelly has yet to face a jiu-jitsu specialist of Jessa’s caliber on the ONE Championship stage. “I’ve watched her fights ever since she joined ONE, and it’s hard to tell how good she’s gotten, just because she hasn’t fought anyone that high-level, jiu-jitsu-wise,” says Khan – who’s eager to find out firsthand how Kelly stacks up against a fellow world class black belt.
To that end, Khan’s not letting the current hype around the Silver Fox phenom faze her. “That last match [we had], I was attacking a lot,” Khan recalls. “It’s just that I couldn’t get the submission. Now, I feel like I know certain submissions to do against her because I know she has a very good defense, and she’s very flexible, so I’m going to try and do submissions that I think will make her tap this time around.”
Khan’s certainly got the accolades to back up her confidence: the AOJ black belt has collected several major jiu-jitsu victories this year, including both the IBJJF Worlds and Pans titles. It helps that she trains in a room that’s produced some of the most accomplished grappling champions in the world, including multiple-time black belt champ Tainan Dalpra, freshly-minted black belt Cole Abate, and the up-and-coming Funegra sisters.
“At AOJ, we never really had a female figure,” Khan tells me. “And that’s something that we all kind of wished we had.” She laughs. “And then I started becoming the first [female] black belt there, and getting some big opportunities there – and then it was like, everyone was after me! But I think I got used to it, and it definitely helped me. That’s why I feel pretty confident going into this fight – because there are so many high-level jiu-jitsu people at AOJ.
“I feel like all the girls I train with, they’ve made a training room that’s a lot tougher than how it’s going to be at the competition. The way my training partners are, they’re all very good, very technical, and they’re winning all these competitions. And I’m sure that if they were to fight against Danielle, that they’d do great as well. So I have confidence, going into this fight.”
Don’t miss this history-making showdown between Danielle Kelly and Jessa Khan at ONE Fight Night 14 on Friday, September 29.