When it comes to some fighters, getting them to the gym is the hard part. For Julie Kedzie, it’s quite the opposite. Normally, you would think that this is a good thing, but as she found out in her last fight against Germaine De Randamie in July, being a gym rat can sometimes be hazardous to your career.
“I think I let the whole idea of being in the UFC kind of overtake me and scare me to the point where I over trained and didn’t respect my body,” said Kedzie, who dropped a three round split decision to De Randamie. “It is a habit of mine to sometimes over train, and (coach) Greg (Jackson) is like ‘at some point you’re gonna learn the lesson of doing this, and there’s nothing I can say to you until you see what it does to you.’ And I finally understood because I was so sluggish and I couldn’t execute anything. And that’s not to take away from her performance; it’s just to say that mine was very bad.”
If you’ve watched the majority of Kedzie’s previous 27 fights, you would agree. She wasn’t out of the fight by any means, but it wasn’t the type of performance you expect from someone nicknamed “Fireball.” That was surprising to those of us outside the Octagon. Inside it, Kedzie was just as shocked; not just with what happened on fight night, but that the reality of finally fighting in the UFC hit her as hard as it does a kid with just a handful of pro fights.
“It overwhelmed me and what’s funny is that I tried so hard to downplay it,” she said. “I didn’t pay enough credit to how much that can affect you mentally. I was like ‘oh okay, if I’m scared I’m just gonna train harder.’ Instead of just respecting my body, I was trying to push through it to the point where I was doing five or six workouts a day. And it showed in the fight.”
But when it was over, it wasn’t a signal for Kedzie to sulk, lock herself away, and ponder if she ever wanted to fight again after three straight losses (albeit to standouts like De Randamie, Miesha Tate, and Alexis Davis). No, that’s not the 32-year-old’s style.
“I said ‘Well, I know what I did wrong, I’m ready to go again. Can I fight again?’ So I was bugging my manager 24/7 to bug him (UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby). I don’t feel like I should do that to Sean because I know how hard he works, but I don’t mind putting that on my manager. (Laughs) It was a passive-aggressive attack.”
It worked, as Kedzie will be back in action this Friday (Saturday in Australia) against Brazilian newcomer Bethe Correia. And whether it was a veteran contender, a hot prospect, or a UFC debutant like the “Pitbull,” Kedzie really doesn’t care.
“It doesn’t really matter who it is at this point,” she laughs. “I was so anxious for an opponent and so happy that I had one that I was like ‘whoever, whatever.’ I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with her (Correia), but to be honest, I’m not extending myself too far in game planning. At this point I just want to fight, and I think I do the best when I just let my coaches do the game planning and I just fight like myself.”
When she’s on, it’s something to see, and you realize why Kedzie has been one of the most respected fighters in women’s MMA since her career started back in 2004. But she’s not a big fan of the ‘P’ word – pioneer – choosing instead to focus on evolving, not relying on muscle memory to get her through fights. And for this bout, that includes some methods that may be seen as unconventional.
“I’ve been seeing a mental coach to get me ready and help me prepare to find that moment when I let go of consciousness and go into more of an experience where I’m executing what I’m supposed to do and I’m smiling about it,” said Kedzie. “I achieved that in the Miesha fight; I didn’t achieve that in the Germaine fight. I didn’t find the zone there. Instead it was just work and a struggle, and that sucks because the work and the struggle comes in the camp. The fight’s the fun part. That’s when you get to let go, so I’ve been working on strategies to get to that point again. My best case scenario is I beat the ever living crap out of this girl and then I go back to the locker room and I just let go and cry. For me, that’s great.”
As for the end result, obviously that’s important, especially when you’re trying to snap a losing streak and keep your roster spot. Kedzie knows that the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the tired “is this a must win fight?” question, but she handles it like the pro’s pro that she is.
“You never enter the cage thinking ‘well, this could go either way, we’ll see how it goes,’” she said. “Every fight is a must win fight. You don’t lock yourself in a cage with another person who’s trying to take your head off without the intention of trying to take their head off.”
She pauses, then finishes her thoughts in the only way a fighter can.
“There’s a million ways you can lose your job – I’m just gonna worry about fighting. I’m gonna do my job, have fun with it, and whatever shakes out after that, that’s up to those people (the UFC). My job is to fight.”
Julie Kedzie: 'My Job is to Fight'
"Every fight is a must win fight. You don’t lock yourself in a cage with another person who’s trying to take your head off without the intention of trying to take their head off." - Julie Kedzie