Things didn’t start so well for Bellator women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd back in 2011.
Budd was just 2-2 after four fights. She was stopped by Amanda Nunes in just 14 seconds in her second pro fight and submitted by Ronda Rousey in 39 seconds in her fourth. Perhaps fittingly to how her career would turn out though, Budd managed to beat Germaine de Randamie in between those two trouncings, with all three of those women going on to become future world champions.
And Budd went on to become champion, too.
The 36-year-old is the inaugural and only Bellator women’s featherweight champion ever, and she revealed to Heavy that she plans on making a huge statement against Cris “Cyborg” Justino this weekend.
“With where I’m at (now in my career), I wanted the big fight card,” Budd said. “I wanted to be the headliner. I’ve been working my butt off, and I wanted this experience.”
Now that time is here.
Bellator 238: Budd vs. Cyborg takes place on Saturday, Jan. 25 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The main card starts in the U.S. at 10 p.m. ET on DAZN.
Budd’s Championship Mettle Tested Early
Getting rolled by Nunes and Rousey so quickly and brutally might have broken less resilient fighters, but Budd said she used those experiences to help her grow into the champion she’s become.
“That was an interesting few months after those losses,” Budd said. “But I really found myself. I set some big goals, and now I’m here.”
But Budd even admitted she wasn’t so sure she was cut out to an MMA fighter after taking those early losses.
“We had to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we were going to do, even if I was going to get back in there after those losses because they were two pretty hard losses for me to take, especially that early in my career,” Budd said.
But not even the bad draw of getting thrown into the women’s MMA mix against the likes of such dominant future champions as Nunes and Rousey so early in Budd’s career would ultimately keep the fighter from pursuing her dream.
In fact, Budd said looking back at it all she was grateful for the losses because they helped shape her character as a fighter.
“That was a rollercoaster the first year, but I’m just as grateful for those losses as I am for the wins because they propelled me to become the athlete and martial artist I am now,” Budd said.
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For Budd, Beating Cyborg is Everything
Entering this weekend’s contest against Justino, Budd has won 11 straight fights.
She’s the women’s featherweight champion in what most people consider the company with the deepest roster of 145-pound female MMA talent available, and the roster only got deeper and better with the recent additions of Cyborg and Kat Zingano.
Despite her excellent career, Budd said her legacy hinges on her defeating Cyborg this weekend in what will be Budd’s third title defense. The Canadian defeated Marloes Coenen at Bellator 174 in March 2017 to become champion and plans to keep her Bellator reign going by beating Cyborg in arguably the toughest fight of her career.
So the stakes couldn’t be higher, at least in Budd’s mind.
“It’s huge. It’s so big. It’s so important to my legacy. It’s important to me. I’m going to go in there and give it everything I’ve got. Every ounce,” Budd said. “I’ve never been in a better place, I don’t believe physically, mentally, emotionally, you name it. I’m here, and I’m ready to go in and absolutely have the best performance of my career.”
Still, no matter what happens at Bellator 238, Budd will already have done something most people never dream of accomplishing. She experienced huge setbacks in her life, the kinds of which most people might never recover from, and she went on to make history anyway as Bellator’s first women’s featherweight champion.
“I proved that it wasn’t going to keep me down,” Budd said. “I’m going to keep coming. I’m a champion. I have always had a champion’s mentality, tons of drive and tons of determination. Those losses just drove me to work harder, and to get in there to prove that I can really do this.”
Budd has certainly done that, and now the icing on the cake would be defeating Cyborg, one of the best and most dominant women’s MMA athletes in the history of the sport.