Picture this: a little garage in Calgary. There are mitts stacked in the corner, a heavy bag or two hanging from the rafters, and a bunch of Canadians sweating no matter what the air temperature. It’s blue collar. It’s dedication. It’s a bunch of people coming together to learn and love a sport that not many can even understand.
Now, picture this: the lights pulsing and the music blaring. The announcer is working the crowd into a frenzy on one of the biggest stages in the world. It’s the next step in a long and storied career. It’s where Julia Budd will be on Oct. 24, when she steps into the cage to face Arlene Blencowe. Budd is very comfortable, be it on the biggest of stages or in the dankest of gyms.
“The Jewel” is 8-2 in professional MMA. She also holds a 10-2 mark in professional Muay Thai. One of her claims to fame is being the only woman to ever defeat Gina Carano in Muay Thai. Of her two losses in MMA, one came to Amanda Nunes, the current UFC bantamweight champion, and the other came against Ronda Rousey, the former UFC bantamweight champ.
Budd has vanquished every other MMA foe. When other fighters speak of her, the word you hear over and over is strength. Her hands are hard as hammers. Her legs, quick and powerful. Usually, a fighter either has strength or endurance. Budd is the rare physical specimen that has both. She can push the pace despite her strength. It’s a punishing and relentless pace that will break opponents mentally as well as physically.
“I’ve been training for 17-18 years and I feel like I’m only getting stronger. For years, I’ve had this nagging injury to my back,” explained Budd in an interview with Combat Press. “But this time, I took six whole weeks off to really recover. So this is the first time in two and a half years that I am injury-free. I had a herniated disc and just never let it heal, but this time is different. I feel fantastic.
“And I love to train. I love physical activity in general. I played sports all through school until high school. I loved soccer and pretty much all the other sports, but I quit playing in high school. I kind of went off the deep end, but when I found kickboxing, I fell in love. Kickboxing completely changed the direction of my life.”
Budd took to kickboxing and kickboxing took to her. Then, MMA became her focus. Budd’s strength is her strength, so a sport that allows her to kick and punch and grapple is a perfect fit.
Most normal humans and fighters don’t make their MMA debuts on the biggest stage available, but that is what Budd did. Her debut fight occurred in 2008 in the Strikeforce cage. Company head Scott Coker and the Strikeforce team are responsible for building the biggest stars in women’s MMA, so it’s no surprise that many of the best women signed with Bellator after Coker took over the reins.
“There was a bit of a lull previously for the women’s 145[-pound] division, but I face Arlene in October and Marloes [Coenen] faces Talita ]Nogueira] in November. And I hope the plan is to have the world title on the line come the new year.”
Budd has been scheduled to fight the aforementioned Coenen before, but she had to pull out of the fight due to her injury. Before that, Budd was slated to face the aforementioned Nogueira, too. However, Nogueira was forced to withdraw due to a neck injury. You know that saying about it being a small world? Well, it’s true. And when you talk about top-tier female fighters at 145 pounds, the world gets really small. Bellator is dedicated to the division, though, and is out to showcase these fighters.
“It’s good to face the best,” said Budd. “I like the match-up with Arlene. She is a strong fighter, and facing her is a great opportunity. ‘Cyborg’ [Cristiane Justino] was barely able to make it to 140 [pounds] for the other promotion, and I just don’t see her making it to 135. So, who can she fight at 145? For me, I am staying with Bellator — we’ve got the best competition. The quality of the competition means they put on more exciting fights.
“Like I said, this is the best I have felt in years and the best fight camp I have had. I have been working on my striking a lot lately, but I plan on using it all — striking, takedowns and my experience. I plan on making it a very athletic fight. The classic Budd [laughs], you know, set the pace, press forward, push her till she breaks.
“I’ve been working on some cool stuff in my striking, and it feels good to be able to use my full body at its maximum capacity.”
Budd’s picturing one more thing. She’s picturing her hand raised after a hard-fought win on Friday night.