Canadian featherweight Julia Budd is hoping a statement performance against Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 162 in Memphis, Tennessee, this weekend will land her a shot at vacant women's world title belt.
'Jewel' was scheduled to face Marloes Coenen for the innaugural 145lb belt back in May. But injury ruled her out of the fight â€“ where late stand-in Alexis Dufresne tapped out the Dutch veteran in a non-title fight.
Now Budd, 33, whose two career defeats in 10 pro fights came against UFC champ Amanda Nunes and her next challenger Ronda Rousey back in Strikeforce, wants to lay fresh claim for a title show â€“ and she's willing to go through whoever she needs to in order to get it.
Fighters Only caught up with the Lance Gibson-trained striker â€“ ranked second only to Cris Cyborg at 145lb â€“ ahead of Friday night's Bellator showcase.
Q. Arlene comes from a boxing background while yours is more kickboxing, does that mean fans can expect a standup war?
A. I've seen the fight playing out a million different ways in my mind, but what I know 100% is that I'm going to go out there and impose my will and display all my skills. I'm confident in all areas and I'm so excited to get in there and show what we've been working on.
Q. Where does a win over Arlene place you in the division?
A. Hopefully right in line for a title shot. That's the plan. I never look past an opponent. My focus is on having the best performance of my life Friday night and let Bellator decide what happens from there.
Q. You havenâ€™t lost a fight in over four years, with an undefeated run through Invicta and now a 2-0 record with Bellator. What do you attribute it to?
A. I learned so much in my first year fighting. It was a roller coaster but it helped develop me into the fighter that I am today. I'm confident in my striking, wrestling and grappling now. Where as when I first started I felt like a Muay Thai fighter only.
Q. What did you take from each of your losses against Nunes and Rousey?
A. Both those losses helped me mature as a mixed martial artist. They were early in my career but I think it taught me the importance of being focused, being on and being confident in all areas of your game.
Q. What's it like fighting for Bellator MMA and president Scott Coker again?
A. I do. I'm proud to represent Bellator and be a part of this family.
Q. What's the best thing about being a pro fighter?
A. It's an incredible feeling when you feel a game plan that you and your team developed fall into place.
Q. Who inspired you? Personally and professionally?
A. When I first started fighting in kickboxing I was obsessed with Lucia Rijker. She was my hero. I also loved Ernesto Hoost and in MMA I first started fighting when I was at 'Rampage's camp for Machida with my husband who was coaching him at the time. I stayed in California and got to be a part of that training camp for my first fight in Strikeforce. So that was what started out my MMA journey. I am a diehard GSP fan, too.