Saturday night will once again put women's MMA on the front burner. Strikeforce will feature a card showcasing three female fights, with Ronda Rousey's first title defense against Sarah Kaufman headlining the card. Her last opponent, Miesha Tate, will face off against Julie Kedzie, a veteran of WMMA, who achieved first recognition as being one of the athletes of the first female fight to air on a mainstream cable network. Since then, Julie has become a staple of WMMA, and has also found another niche in the sport with commentating for Invicta FC. In a recent interview, Julie talked about her upcoming bout with Tate, and gave her thoughts on the stigma that she feels has been unfairly attached to Jackson's MMA.
*Note: Interviewer is either my co-host, Evan Shoman of TapouT Radio, or myself. When I don't conduct these interviews by myself, I just put "Interviewer" to eliminate having to bounce back and forth between three different names.
Interviewer: You've been absent from fight activity for over a year. Why the long layoff?
Julie Kedzie: It's kind of one of those 'injury meets lack of opportunity' things. I've always been under the Strikeforce banner. They offered me a fight last September and I had to withdraw because I was hurt. After that, I asked and begged and begged to be put on every single card, which probably drove my manager up the wall, but there was a lot of talk going on among other women in the 135 division, so they got the opportunity to fight. It's fine, and I consider it as a year to improve my skillset. I'm always hungry to fight. I'd like to fight tomorrow, as well as Saturday, if I could. Maybe Monday, as well [laughs]. I just kind of had some bad luck this year, and the focus has been on other women in the division. Now I'm back and it's my turn.
Interviewer: You pretty much run Jackson's gym, and act as Greg's assistant. Are you finding it increasingly more difficult to multitask now that you're becoming more active, with fighting as well as commentary?
Julie Kedzie: I love my job. You have to look at in the respect that a lot of fighters don't know what they're going to do when they're done fighting. I know exactly what I'm going to do when I'm done fighting. I may not have had fights, but I've been in the gym every single day. I've been helping others out, been a sparring partner for some, and I get to witness things that fans would probably love to be a part of. It's been a great year and it's a great job. I would probably be Greg Jackson's assistant even if I was a multi-millionaire because it gives me access to what I love best. I love fighting, but it doesn't quite pay me enough to pay all the bills, so this works well for me.
Interviewer: With all the superstar talent that is in the gym already, and the ones that routinely travel there to train, who has stood out or impressed you the most?
Julie Kedzie: I'm always totally amazed by Donald Cerrone and the stuff that he does. There's up and comers that nobody has even heard of that are just incredible. Adlan Amagov has been training with us, and he's phenomenal. We've got a whole bunch of Russians coming into the gym, and it's just so cool. What's nice about being where I'm at, I see these incredible fighters and the things that they're doing, it's some really amazing stuff. The way they interact with each other and the personalities there are what really impress me. The camraderies that have been developed in this gym is a really impressive thing to me.
Interviewer: Jackson's MMA has been in the hot seat a good bit with criticism about their fighters being boring, point fighting, fighting not to lose, etc. despite the fact that your camp is the leader in 'of the night' bonuses. Does that bother you at all?
Julie Kedzie: No, because it's not true. We aren't boring. There may have been some fights that maybe didn't deliver what the fans wanted, but you have to understand, we're fighting. We're not performing, dancing monkeys. Our guys do incredible things. Look at Cowboy and Erik Perez' finishes.
When I see people attacking the character of my coaches, I do get defensive of them, but at the end of the day, we're all adults. It's pretty dumb to see these comments about Greg Jackson's fighters not finishing fights when we have all these bonuses. I've never been at a practice where he hasn't told us to finish the fight. He's always telling us that the safest way to win a fight is to finish it. Knock them out or submit them.
Interviewer: We haven't really heard too much from Miesha about your fight because she seems to be zeroing in on a rematch with Ronda Rousey. Do you think her focus might be misguided and will ultimately give you the edge in the fight?
Julie Kedzie: I don't think she's looking past me or anything. I think we're going to see a very focused Miesha Tate. She is a very media savvy person. She's very good at dropping things that will get a lot of responses. When you say 'Ronda Rousey', it always evokes a response in people. She lost to Ronda, so there's some emotion and tension behind that. She wants to redeem herself. I'm sure she sees me as a viable opponent, and if she doesn't, she's going to be surprised. She has to fight me on the 18th, and I am going to win.
You can follow Julie via her Twitter account, @julesk_fighter