It's not too often that a fighter loses two bouts in a row and still gets invited to compete in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
But not everyone is Julie Kedzie.
The "Fireball" has been a staple of women's mixed martial arts ever since winning the all-women's HOOKnSHOOT single night tournament back in 2005. She's literally fought a "who's who" of the best women in the world including Gina Carano, Tara LaRosa, Shayna Baszler, Kaitlin Young, Alexis Davis and most recently Miesha Tate.
It was the bout against Tate that pushed her over the edge, knocking "Cupcake" down multiple times in the first two rounds before succumbing to a third round armbar in one of 2012's most entertaining fights. Bringing her into the UFC fold was a no-brainer after a performance like that.
Kedzie is slated to make her UFC debut this Saturday night (July 27, 2013) when she takes on Dutch kickboxer Germaine de Randamie on the UFC on FOX 8 preliminary card in Seattle, Washington.
The Jackson's MMA product spoke to MMAmania.com about ramping things up for a UFC debut, recovering from a shoulder injury and finally having confidence in her skills in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Holly Holm and Leonard Garcia had incredible knockout victories this past weekend. You didn't get a chance to see it, but what do big wins like that for teammates do for your morale heading into your UFC debut?
Julie Kedzie: Yeah, I don't have AXIS TV so I was just trying to follow along on the internet. It's inspirational, isn't it? Two of your teammates going in there and they just win in these huge ways. It just gets you pumped up like, "Yeah! We're gonna do great!" It gets me really motivated.
I'll tell you what though, it was hell. I was refreshing this site with play-by-play of the fights every couple seconds, checking twitter for live updates, telling people to text me. It was ridiculous. I was originally planning to spend that night relaxing, maybe do a bit of laundry but I didn't relax at all.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of Holly, how nice was it that you were both able to time up your training camps together just because you both have similar strengths and weaknesses and you're able to work on a lot of the same things together at the same time?
Julie Kedzie: Yeah it was perfect. I couldn't have asked for better circumstances for this upcoming fight. Training alongside one of, if not the best striker in women's combat sports helps my game tremendously. When you're sparring with her and you actually get a chance to hit her and you get a shot that lands, your confidence just goes through the roof. "I can hit anyone now!" It was wonderful. I hope all of our fight camps coincide.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And on the flipside, she also was probably a great emulator of Germaine de Randamie, your upcoming opponent, who's a very solid kickboxer in her own right.
Julie Kedzie: Yeah, I was really really super lucky in this camp. I'm not gonna lie. Super lucky.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've proclaimed that one of your biggest goals is to get to a point where you "don't suck." How close do you think you are to not sucking?
Julie Kedzie: (laughs) I think I'm there. I don't think I suck. (laughs) Definitely not this camp. I've been going out of my way to work with people who were harder to work with and I've been holding my own really well against them. I'm not just sparring the girls, I'm sparring the guys too and I'm choosing harder opponents every time I practice and yeah, I think I'm good now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you feel like you had to ramp things up just because of the stakes of this fight, being your UFC debut and having a bigger spotlight and everything?
Julie Kedzie: Yeah, and with my last performance, there's just no holding back anymore. There's no excuses now. I should be performing on that level every time I step into the cage. There's no reason to go easy anymore. There's no reason to think I can't go hard. There's no reason to think I can't be on the level of everybody else in my gym. It was a big eye-opening experience for me. It was great.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now after that fight, you had to spend about six months sidelined while recovering from a shoulder injury. Was a big part of this camp was spent improving overall or was a lot of it just trying to get back to the level you were at for the Miesha Tate fight?
Julie Kedzie: Yeah, honestly a lot of it was just learning to fight again. It does suck, let me tell you. Mad props to anyone who's come back from surgery. It's the first time I've gone through that and I'm 32 years old so I'm not a young fighter in a lot of ways and I had to experience rebuilding myself and coming back. It was hard as hell. It was not easy. I think that it's actually, not to get to crazy, but you get so much better as a person, as a human being when you have to overcome stuff. I had to work through everything and understand that I will be stronger than I am today during rehab. It's about putting in your work every day and just grinding.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had so many ups and downs in your career. Was there ever a point where you weren't sure that you'd make it?
Julie Kedzie: Maybe right before I moved to Jackson's. There was a time where I wasn't sure. There was a guy I was gonna marry and all sorts of things came up where my life could have taken a different direction. Maybe that could have been a time but Jesus I'm glad I didn't fall down that path. (laughs) That was six years ago and it wasn't the path for me. It wasn't the direction I was supposed to go and I think if I hadn't done what I'd done now, I would be a miserable human being.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a self-admitted nervous wreck every day. Considering your proximity to Greg Jackson, being his assistant and all, does he ever give you any gameplans for dealing with the nerves?
Julie Kedzie: He's more focused on just trying to get me to be a better person, a better human being. Fighting is about your performance but it's also about building your character and who you're supposed to become. He thinks it's brave that I'm nervous all the time. If I'm that nervous just walking down the street, it makes every challenge overcome that much more meaningful. You have to fear something in order to be brave and since I'm scared of pretty much everything, that makes me a brave person.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've said you always knew you'd be in the UFC someday but obviously before that even happened, they had to start allowing women to compete. You've had first hand experience in the progression of women's MMA. Was there a point in women's MMA where you realized UFC was going to include women or did Dana White's announcement catch you by surprise?
Julie Kedzie: The announcement didn't surprise me actually. The moment was when Zuffa acquired Strikeforce. When that happened, I was like, "We're in. We're in." Because there was no way, the women's division in Strikeforce was so viable, so intriguing. Everyone wanted to see those fights. Everyone wanted to see Miesha Tate, everyone wanted to see Gina Carano when she fought and obviously Ronda Rousey came and took everything by storm. I knew we would get in at some point, but for me, that was one of the big nail in the coffin type moments. That Strikeforce acquisition was it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've admitted working for low pay throughout your career, so what is this opportunity for you like, fighting on the preliminary card and making more than you're probably used to and hopefully having better sponsorship opportunities as well?
Julie Kedzie: Yeah, it's fantastic. What really comes with the UFC paycheck is the potential to do so much more with it. I will be making more this fight than I've ever made in my life in a fight and I've had 27 professional fights so I'm very happy. There's also the potential for a "Fight of the Night" bonus or something to that degree and there's potential for sponsors to take a look at you and go, "Oh wow! That chick's pretty good. I'd like her to rep my brand." All in all, it's really great. The potential for my fighting career to be financially viable, I'm excited for that. I want to be on my own two feet. It'd be great to not have student loans anymore or that sort of thing. I'm 32, I'd love to buy a house someday and create kind of a future for myself and this is a huge opportunity to do that.
Anything that comes with this fight is fantastic. I always want to have an exciting fight whether 300 people are watching or 300,000. Money doesn't really put pressure on me. I have a lot of faith in my ability to succeed without money in this sport as I've been doing that for so long already. Extra money is going to be nice. It'll be great. There's some potential for some really great things to happen here but I'm not expecting them all to happen for me on the 27th. I'm not expecting to walk away from that fight as a millionaire. It'd be great, but I'm realistic.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You fought on the same card as Germaine de Randamie the last time you both competed in Strikeforce. Does that give you an extra boost knowing she's been out of competition as long as you have despite your shoulder injury?
Julie Kedzie: Umm, no because she wasn't out with an injury. She was out training and getting better. I expect her to have an edge. She was probably thinking, "Oh boy, I'm gonna be in the UFC. I'd better bust my ass for a year and improve at all levels." That actually makes it harder for me because I wasn't able to do it during the time she was training that much harder. That actually makes it scarier. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): She's a fighter that's got great experience with kickboxing. While you've admitted your ground game needs a lot of work, do you expect to have an advantage if the fight hits the canvas?
Julie Kedzie: It's a mystery, isn't it? I don't know if I see her going to the ground. She fought Julia Budd but that was so long ago, it's a mystery. Hell, she could be throwing flying armbars now. I'm facing potentially someone who's submission skills have just reached an all-time peak. I don't know until I step into the cage but that makes it fun. There's no way, you can't plot out every move of the fight. You can't plot out every exchange. Even if we go to the ground, I don't know if I'll have the upper hand or not. Just like she shouldn't expect to have an upper hand in the kickboxing despite the fact she's been doing it for so long. That's because she's never kickboxed anybody like me. We'll see.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you like that mystery, the unknown? Or do you prefer to have somebody as an opponent with so much film and recent fights that you'll know where they'll be?
Julie Kedzie: It's a give or take situation. Unknown takes away expectation. I have no expectations that the fight will go a certain way. I can't make my mind go through motions of whether I'll pass my foot over here or deliver a kick and it'll lead to this and this and that. The mystery leaves less expectations and it's more of me just having to fight like I fight. The same way when you have a lot of film on somebody, you can point out the glaring weaknesses in their game. Obviously, for researchers and people who are very methodical about how they approach fighting, that's probably a better method for them.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You just said Randamie hasn't faced anyone like you. She's had 30-some kickboxing bouts and five MMA fights. What do you think it is about your style that makes you so unique that she hasn't seen anything like you?
Julie Kedzie: I train with Mike WInklejohn (laughs). To my knowledge, she hasn't faced anyone he's trained. I train with Coach Wink and his kickboxing was back in the day so dominant and so incredible, I'm very confident in my abilities to stand and bang.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With this opportunity finally about to take place. How do you visualize success when you're thinking about this fight?
Julie Kedzie: At this point, I'm visualizing success during exchanges that happen during the fight. I can't map out what exactly is going to happen. There's no specific combinations I've been practicing that I know will deliver, but I do visualize exchanges, punches in bunches, how hard and fast I am and just being there inside the Octagon for real.
I remember going to an Ultimate Fighter Finale and I was backstage going through the pre-fight walkthrough. It was back when they were at the Palms. I was there supporting Greg and my teammates. Greg goes, "Hey, get in the cage." I stepped into the cage, soaked it in and was like, "Yeah, I'm gonna be in here. I'm gonna be fighting in here. This is my home. I helped build it." Even though I never fought in the UFC before, I helped build that cage in my own way, just like every fighter has. It's my turn to go in there and claim my real estate. Get my hand raised.
Julie would like to thank her new sponsors Fear the Fighter, Hayabusa, Triumph United and Training Mask. You can follow her on Twitter @JulesK_Fighter.