This is number seventeen in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature recent UFC signee, Julie Kedzie.
Julie is a true veteran of the sport, having fought in her first professional fight nine years ago. She has fought many of the best women and been part of several major promotions, including Elite XC and Strikeforce. It was recently announced that Julie was signed by the UFC to be part of their 135lbs female division. The longtime Jackson-Winklejohn fighter, Kedzie, is expected to make her UFC debut sometime in 2013.
Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts and when did it become more than just a hobby?
Julie Kedzie: My father enrolled me in Tae Kwon Do when I was pretty young, so martial arts were always a part of my life. I was very competitive as a teenager in TKD competitions, and when I discovered MMA, I fell in love. I've trained in about a dozen different martial arts, like Kali and Muay Thai, but for me, MMA was the right fit for my training and my way of life.
JB: When you began training more seriously, and it became apparent that you would be fighting competitively, how did your friends and family react?
JK: Nobody really understood my passion for MMA fighting at first. I had just graduated from college, and my original plan was to go right into law school. Instead of beginning that process, I started working a bunch of different jobs to support my new habit. I tried to find any job I could that was near the gym and had the right hours so that I could train and train and train. I don't know if I've ever been particularly talented at this sport, but I have always been very driven and have worked my ass off. I believe that mentality is what made my friends and family, that didn't understand, to at least have RESPECT for what I was trying to accomplish. Eventually, I proved through hard work that I had actually chosen the right path for myself.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight and how prepared were you at the time?
JK: I won my first fight nine years ago, against Terry Blair, in Jeff Osborne's Hook n Shoot, via armbar. I certainly THOUGHT I was prepared, but my two subsequent matches proved that I needed more work on my ground game (Still do. Ha-ha!). What I remember distinctly about that match was giving my first interview and totally spazzing out all over the place and claiming that I would be in the UFC someday. People laughed at me, but hey, guess what? :-) All that aside, the actual fight was what I really fell in love with. You can keep your crowds, and dramatic buildup, and all the things that "sell" a fight. I know all of that's important, but at the end of the day, I just fucking love the fight.
JB: You have fought many of the best WMMA fighters out there, including Gina Carano. What was the fight with Gina, in EliteXC back in 2007, like for you, and how far do you think WMMA has come since then?
JK: You know, I still get asked about that fight A LOT, and it was five years ago. On one hand, YUCK, let's talk about some of my victories! But on the other hand, it proves what a significant fight it actually was for women in the sport. Certainly, at this point, that fight has been surpassed by other famous and momentous bouts that women have put on, but I would say that it was an important moment in the history of female fighters and I'm proud that I was a part of it. Gina was, and always will be, a vital character in the changing perception of female fighters. She is also an absolutely lovely person and a terrific fighter. I don't like losing, but it was an honor to fight her and to prove, through a great fight, that women have a place in the MMA world.
JB: You and your Jackson-Winklejohn teammate, John Dodson, were featured on an episode of the second season of TapouT's television series in 2008. How was it watching yourself on television and how did that experience impact your fighting career?
JK: Ha-ha! I'm a little shy about watching myself on TV, but I was super grateful that the TapouT crew chose me. It brought me to the attention of some great promotions and it was awesome to have the support of just an incredible group of guys. I truly cherish that experience, particularly my interactions with Charles "Mask" Lewis, who was a beautiful and exceptional human being. The TapouT crew was one of the first real groups to support the MMA community, and to have them behind me made me feel like a champion already. Also, John Dodson was pretty much destined for greatness, and it was awesome that they recognized it even then!
JB: You have been a Jackson-Winklejohn fighter for quite a while now. How did you first become involved with the team and what has their training and support meant to you?
JK: I actually met Greg Jackson and Joey Villasenor backstage at the fight against Gina. They were extremely kind and supportive, and although I fell short in my fight, we struck up a friendship that led to Greg inviting me to come and train. I moved to Albuquerque roughly six years ago, and I can honestly say that of all the places I've trained and people I've met in the sport, this team is one of the best. There is a sense of family and trust here that makes you want to come to the gym and train every day, not just for your own self-development, but for the betterment of your training partners as well. I know people on the UG tend to slam my coaches and my teammates, but all I can say is, if you actually trained here and knew these people, you would be blown away by the kindness, talent, and level of training that takes place here. We also have a terrific group of female fighters that I am very proud of.
JB: Your final fight in Strikeforce was a great battle in which you had Miesha Tate hurt before you eventually lost via submission. Even though it was a loss, how important was that fight for your career?
JK: Oh, goody! We're talking about another one of my losses! Ha-ha! Well, again, I absolutely HATE losing, and I'm still very grumpy that I made a stupid mistake. On the whole, though, I'm happy that I (mostly) fought well that night, and it was nice to get recognition from Dana White. I believe that my performance in that fight was what led me to be included in the first division of women signed to the UFC, but I would say that the real importance of that fight was my developing a stronger faith in myself and my abilities. I am a good fighter. After the ups and downs of nearly a decade in this sport, at the end of the day, all I really care about is good, hard fights and leaving my heart in the cage.
JB: You are now a UFC fighter. What excites you most about joining the promotion and who, where, and when would you like to fight if it were up to you?
JK: I'm excited about the prospect of fighting anyone, but I REALLY want to rematch Tate. The UFC is recognized for being the best organization for Mixed Martial Arts in the world, so to be a part of their ranks is both humbling and exhilarating. I underwent labrum surgery last October, so I am hoping to book a fight as soon as I am medically cleared to train 100%. Hopefully, this will be by June or so.
JB: You are a veteran of the sport and still may have a long career ahead of you, but what plans or goals do you have for the future beyond fighting?
JK: I love coaching, and I've been fortunate enough to work alongside some of the best in the business. I can definitely see myself running a female team full-time someday. I also might just say, "F--- it," and join the Peace Corps and have absolutely nothing to do with martial arts. You never can tell. Right now, I'll just concentrate on what I love to do and what's directly in front of me.
JB: Last question, Jules, and thank you so much for doing this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
JK: Ha-ha! This is a crazy hard question to answer! To me, being a fighter is such an intrinsic part of my identity that I can't even really remember a time when I wasn't. It took me a while to be recognized by the rest of the world (being a female in the sport when we were looked down on, not necessarily having a "star power" personality, etc.), but since I began fighting, I've known who I am and THAT'S what matters in the end. I love what I do. I love testing myself against my own limitations and against other people. Using physical combat to grow as a person may seem counterintuitive to some, but I truly believe that MMA has made me better at life.
Thank you so much for reading and please follow @julesk_fighter and @jackjohnbrown on Twitter.
You can also find links to all of Jack’s UG articles and interviews on Facebook.
Special thanks to @KirikJenness for @theUG
And keep checking the UG for the next Jack Brown Interview with WMMA fighter, Invicta FC’s Bec Hyatt.
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