Julia Budd is finally ready to step into the cage to defend her Bellator MMA featherweight title against Cris Cyborg.
And the B.C. athlete will do it Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
I cant wait to introduce myself to the world, said Budd, who hails from the Sunshine Coast and resides in Port Moody, where she trains under the watchful eye of her husband former UFC competitor Lance Gibson at Gibson MMA and kickboxing.
This fight has been a long time coming and what Im so excited about is that its at the perfect time in my career. Its at the perfect time of who I am.
The B.C. woman has spent several years answering questions about the Brazilian superstar and listening to the usual social media nonsense that suggests shes scared to face Cyborg, which is why she ended up signing with Bellator in the first place, despite the fact that nearly three years after the UFCs inaugural womens featherweight title fight, there still is no actual division.
This is the time where Im at the absolute best in my career Im a well-rounded martial artist and I believe in myself fully, said Budd, who was offered the chance to fight Cyborg twice before in her career once in the early days of her transition from kickboxing and again on short notice under the Invicta FC banner.
She declined on both offers, fuelling the social media spin cycle, but knew each time it was the correct decision.
Port Moodys Julia Budd battles with Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 189 in Thackerville, Okla., in 2017. Budd comes into her bout with Cris Cyborg riding an 11-fight win streak.PNG
After years of battling injuries and inactivity, the 36-year-old has been healthy and firing on all cylinders over the last several years. She enters Saturdays contest with a perfect 7-0 mark inside the Bellator MMA cage, with stoppage victories in each of her last two successful title defences. Shes also riding an 11-fight winning streak.
Despite those accomplishments, and having been the face of the division since claiming the title with a fourth-round finish of pioneer Marloes Coenen in March 2017, the run-up to this weekends championship clash at Bellator 238 has felt largely like The Cyborg Show, with special guest star, bantamweight champion Julia Budd.
In early September, I was choked, Budd said with a laugh, acknowledging the frustration that came with seeing how Cyborgs arrival in the company was handled. But you know what? I dont feel the chip on my shoulder anymore. I feel like I got through that.
When she first signed, I had all those emotions, but now that was so long ago and Ive been so focused on what Ive got to do and using everything as fuel. I respect the fact she and Scott Coker have a special relationship from the (Gina) Carano fight and what theyve done together in the sport.
But this is my fing home!
The vitriol may be gone, but the desire to secure the biggest win of her career and make a statement in the process has fuelled the champion since even before the bout was announced.
For Budd, its not about beating a major name, silencing her critics, and finally getting the recognition shes long deserved. Instead, its about taking the next step on a martial arts journey that started decades ago and giving back to the friends, family, coaches and training partners who have been with her throughout the adventure.
This fight is so important to me, but it has nothing to do with popularity or the world, she said. Its for me, and this warrior spirit that Ive been strengthening for way more than half of my life now. This is about me facing my biggest test and showcasing my skills, doing what Ive got to do. But its for me, not anybody else.
This isnt a popularity contest. Its about me showing how good I am as a mixed martial artist and the champion and how great I can fight (on Saturday).
I dont even remember the feeling in September of Hey Im the champ! because all that energy has gone into doing this for myself and all the people who believe in me, support me, and love me and have been watching me since I was a little kickboxer fighting at the Croatian Cultural Centre.
A lot of those people will be in Inglewood Saturday, needing only the edge of their seats, if they can somehow remain seated, watching as Budd finally gets the chance to stand opposite Cyborg, ready to do whatever it takes to bring another victory back home to B.C.
Im ready for it to end in the first round, second round, third round doesnt matter, she said. I will do whatever it takes to leave that cage with my hand raised and the belt around my waist.
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