When assessing Olga Rubin’s chances of dethroning Julia Budd, it helps to know the kind of hurdles she’s already overcome in pursuit of her MMA dream.
A native of Russia who has grown up in Israel since childhood, Rubin didn’t even start training in martial arts until she was 23 years old. Though the martial arts scene in her adopted home has shown spurts of development over the past decade, Israel is still not recognized as a hotbed for cagefighting talent. So already, Rubin faced an uphill climb.
Then there was the the matter of Rubin having to deal with an unexpected blessing in 2016. Bellator MMA announced that it would be making its debut in Israel with its first visit to Tel Aviv in November of that year and all Rubin knew is that nothing was going to stop her from booking her first pro fight on that card. Fulfilling that goal became more complicated though when Rubin discovered she was pregnant.
“Scott Coker announced in 2016 that they were coming to Israel for the first Bellator event and I kind of set my goal as that being my first professional fight, I was so hungry for this,” Rubin recently told MMA Fighting. “We got the news that I was pregnant. I just tried to keep in shape during the entire pregnancy of course, basically I did everything in my power to make sure that I would be in that cage six months after (giving birth).
“So he was six months old when I was fighting my first professional fight, I was actually backstage, 10 minutes prior to my bout with a pump to milk.”
Rubin went on to defeat Laurita Likker-Cibirite by first-round TKO at Bellator 164 and has since gone on to compile a 6-0 record. On Friday, she challenges Budd for the Bellator featherweight championship in the main event of Bellator 224 in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
Given the promise she’s shown, it’s likely that a major promotion would have signed Rubin at some point anyway had her debut occurred at a later date. But alternatives were not on Rubin’s mind when she accepted that first fight.
“This was like a dream come true because Israel was still growing on the MMA scene,” Rubin said. “There was something five years prior to that and then nothing. Suddenly there’s such a huge option with this promotion coming to Israel, I just couldn’t really miss that opportunity.
“I had to really fight with my trainers to make sure that I would be on that card. He was like, ‘Just stay with your baby’ and things like that, but I was so determined. And I got the victory.”
Rubin, 29, has competed four times for Bellator, three times in Israel and once in Ireland. Most recently, she defeated Iony Razafiarison by unanimous decision to improve to 4-0 in the promotion and earn her shot at Budd. She describes herself as having a similar style to the champion in that they are both aggressive, pressure fighters, and she also noted that she’s had to up her strength and conditioning game to match up with Budd, who has one of the most impressive physiques in the featherweight division.
That’s meant spending a lot of extra time in the gym, which happens to be Brad Pickett’s Great Britain Top Team ahead of this world title opportunity. Rubin spends much of her time training in Israel, but London has been her home base in the lead-up to Friday.
While her husband Ilga looks after their three-year-old son, Rubin will be making her first trip to the United States where she hopes to become the first fighter to win a major MMA championship after giving birth. Though UFC fighters like Michelle Waterson, Andrea Lee, Alexis Davis, and one-time title challenger Sara McMann have had their own success leading the #MomChamp charge, it’s Rubin who expects to be the one to seal the deal when she wraps Bellator gold around her waist.
“This is literally amazing to me,” Rubin said. “Like, people keep talking about Michelle Waterson, which I really admire. She’s a great lady and she’s a great mom, as is this #MomChamp thing. And I’m like, I’m also fighting to be the first mom champ.
“It would mean the world to my family and my fans to show that mothers can do whatever they want.”