Reuben Dongalen Jr.
I spoke to Julia “The Jewel” Budd, who became the inaugural Bellator MMA women’s featherweight champion on March 6, after a series of nasty blows to her opponent, Marloes Coenen.
I wrote a feature for The Tri-City News — which is available on their March 24, 2017 edition of the newspaper — where Budd talks about her ties to the Port Moody community, growing up in the neighbourhood, the challenges early in her career and the next step now that she’s the champion.
I sat down with the champion in the training octagon at her husband’s gym, Gibson MMA, and I caught a glimpse of her training regiment and her incredible punching power.
Budd is ranked top three in the Unified Women’s Mixed Martial Arts Rankings, and has fought notable fight names such as Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey and Germaine De Randamie.
The inaugural Bellator MMA women’s featherweight title belt is now in the hands of a Port Moody fighter.
After a series of brutal punches and elbows that led to a fight stoppage, Julia “The Jewel” Budd became the first women’s champion in the new division after taking down Marloes Coenen earlier this month.
The Muay Thai specialist, who trains at Gibson MMA in Port Moody, owned by her husband Lance Gibson Sr., improved her record to 10-2 in what many said was one of the most anticipated fights in Bellator MMA history.
“I trained my butt off,” she said. “I felt like I had already won before I even walked into the cage.”
Budd had history with Coenen before the pair met at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., on March 3. After Budd had to pull out of an earlier fight against Coenen last year because of a back injury, she told the media that Coenen said she was “mentally weak.”
Rather than retaliating, Budd used the criticism as extra motivation.
“I was like, ‘I’m not letting this go the distance, I’m going to finish it right here,’” she said. “She was trash talking — it totally lit a fire for me. She apologized after the fight.”
Coenen announced her retirement shortly after the bout.
Prior to her victory, Budd was ranked third in the featherweight division in the Unified Women’s Mixed Martial Arts Rankings, behind only Coenen and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino.
The 15-year fighting veteran is unfamiliar with being at the top — Budd said it’s different now that she’s being hunted.
“It’s a different position to be in than I’ve been in my whole career,” she said. “After so long I was climbing this ladder.”
Budd reflected on her early days training in Port Moody.
Despite living in a region where hockey and soccer tend to dominate over mixed martial arts, she said she has always focused on improving in her sport.
“I just thought that I was going to be a world champion one day,” she said. “I just never lost focus. I’ve been training out here for 15 years. It’s worth it now.”
These days she’s back in the gym with her training partners, and with the victory and the title to show for it, she said she hopes that her path can play a role for aspiring fighters and athletes in the community.
Early in her fighting career, before her recent success, Budd went through many challenges.
Two of the UFC’s most notable women — current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey — were the only losses in Budd’s career. She won her professional debut, followed by a loss to Nunes, then a victory against current UFC women’s featherweight champion Germaine De Randamie. That was followed by her loss to Rousey.
Budd said the first year of her fighting career was a roller coaster ride that benefitted her.
“It was like this super high, then this crashing low,” she said. “It prepared me for everything that I was going to face. I’ve just been thrown in the deep end right away.”
Since the Rousey loss, Budd is currently on an eight-fight win streak. And at 33 years of age, she said she’s just starting.
“Bellator is the place to be,” she said. “We’ve got the best 145’ers in the world. I’ve already got the itch to get back… I look forward to defending that belt.”