Right now, Julia Budd is at the top of her game.
She’s won nine consecutive fights and claimed the inaugural Bellator women’s featherweight championship over Marloes Coenen at Bellator 174 in March 2017. But, it hasn’t always been that way for her.
After losing to Ronda Rousey in 39 seconds at a Strikeforce Challengers event in November 2011, Budd’s record stood at 2-2.
She was at a crossroads going into her next fight against Elina Nilsson in July 2012. The result would determine the path of the rest of her life.
“I decided I wasn’t going to let it define me,” Budd told Sporting News. “The next fight I had was in Invicta. I was just going to see how it went. I was going to train my a— off and see how I do in this fight. And I ended up winning and it felt really good.
“I didn’t want to end my career on a loss. I was like, ‘I’m not going to end it here. I’ve got too much to show the world and I’ve got a lot to prove’. I had to get back in the gym and put it behind me.”
The run Budd (11-2) has been on since the Rousey loss is nothing short of remarkable. Most fighters would have crumbled and descended into the depths of despair, never to be heard of again.
What clicked in the 35-year-old’s mind to get her on this career-revitalizing streak?
“I basically had to get back up and develop my game better,” Budd explained. “That loss actually propelled to me getting better with my wrestling, getting my ground game to where it should be and using my strikes better in my standup.
“Overall, it was a tough loss to swallow, but I’m grateful for it because it forced me to become a better fighter.”
The 145-pound women’s division is the shallowest in MMA. Even though Bellator possesses the most women at that weight out of the major organizations, not many bouts have not taken place there, for one reason or another.
“I don’t think it’s Bellator,” Budd said. “I think it’s the fighters themselves. I don’t know if they are playing it safe and not wanting to take the tough fights and get in the mix.
“It just seems like it’s the same girls that are fighting. I know there are some fights lined up in the summer and I look forward to seeing that.”
Budd puts her winning streak on the line Friday evening when she takes on Talita Nogueira (7-0) from the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla.
“The Jewel” is ready to get back inside the cage for the first time in 2018, after breaking her right ankle and tearing her rotator cuff in her first title defense against Arlene Blencowe in December.
“I’m pumped because we were supposed to fight three years ago and she ended up getting injured,” Budd stated. “I’ve watched her fights and saw her last fight live against Amanda Bell.
“There’s not a lot to show. Her last fight was in 2014. I definitely respect her game on the ground and her jiu-jitsu. I look forward to getting in there and showing what I can do and everything that I’ve been working on.
“This is the time for us to fight and everything happens for a reason. I’m ready for a war.”