Julia Budd got thrown to the wolves as soon as her mixed martial arts career got started but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
The former kickboxer made her transition into MMA back in 2010 and three of her first four fights came against future UFC champions. While she was able to get the better of Germaine de Randamie, Budd suffered a knockout loss to Amanda Nunes and then had her arm broken by Ronda Rousey in 2011.
Some might say that was just a clear cut case of too much, too soon despite Budd’s extensive background in the striking arts but she totally disagrees.
In fact, Budd hasn’t tasted defeat since that fateful night where she had her arm broken by Rousey and she credits that fight as one of the most valuable lessons she’s ever learned in her combat sports career.
“I think with the Ronda [Rousey] fight, up until that fight I felt like I was a Muay Thai fighter that was in the MMA world,” Budd explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I think that exposed me and my ground game and my wrestling and then it was a serious injury. I had my arm freaking snapped. Just all in all, we had to reframe it like do you want to keep doing this and if you do, how are you going to develop as an athlete? How am I going to develop my ground game? I’ve got to build my wrestling and I don’t want to lose my striking, which is what made me who I am today.
“That was just a really big lesson in my life to know that I want to keep doing this and be the best. I’ve got major goals on how I want to go down and how I end my career. I think it was definitely good for me and I’m so grateful for that experience in my first year of fighting. I think that loss turned me into the fighter I am today.”
Now as the reigning Bellator featherweight champion, Budd feels unstoppable and a large part of that confidence was built on the back of the shortcomings she suffered in her early career.
“I think that’s just the way my life goes. I get thrown in the deep end from an early age,” Budd said. “My kickboxing [career], I got brought into fight a girl who’s 10-0 and I’m 1-1. It’s just kind of the way my career has gone from kickboxing to boxing and now MMA.
“I’m grateful for it because it’s what I credit my toughness to, my grit, my determination, these characteristics that I’ve built and now I’m years into my MMA career and I’ve got that experience and I can keep building on who I am as a person and as a fighter.”
As much as she swam with sharks from the first day she started fighting in MMA, Budd was actually offered an even tougher fight before she had considered making the move over from kickboxing.
At the time, Strikeforce needed an opponent for Cris Cyborg, who was just months away from a showdown against Gina Carano in what would become one of the most talked about fights in women’s MMA history.
“She was actually the very first fight, before I had even learned takedowns, that was who I got offered to fight,” Budd revealed. “Talk about being thrown into the deep end. It was 2009, I think I was still a kickboxer and I got told that there was a Cris Cyborg in Strikeforce who needed an opponent and they called me.
“I was like I hadn’t even considered switching into MMA yet. So she’s been on my radar for a long time.”
As of now, Cyborg is preparing for a fight of her own at UFC 241 where she faces Felicia Spencer in the co-main event on the card but that will also serve as the final bout on her current contract with the UFC.
Cyborg has been very vocal about her tumultuous relationship with the UFC, especially when dealing with UFC president Dana White. Obviously, Cyborg could still ultimately choose to re-sign with the UFC but Budd says if the former champion wants a new challenge, she would be welcome in Bellator.
“Hell yeah, that’s a dream fight for me,” Budd said about fighting Cyborg. “Then again, I know the person in front of me is the most dangerous person I’m going to face because they’re trying to take it away from me, trying to take that potential fight away from me, too.
“I think that I’m definitely comfortable as an athlete and where I am now with all my skills. I think that would be an amazing fight and I would welcome that challenge 100 percent.”
First things first, Budd has to get through Olga Rubin this weekend at Bellator 224, but with a win and Cyborg finishing up her UFC contract, she’d be crazy not to pursue the possibility.
“I think it would be amazing,” Budd said. “She’s been a force to be reckoned with at 145 [pounds] for a long time. Me as a martial artist, I always want the best challenges so I would be excited for that fight for sure.”