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Bellator 174's Julia Budd: Marloes Coenen title fight will bring new excitement to female 145 class

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Amanda Nunes, Germaine de Randamie and Ronda Rousey – they’re known as opponents No. 2, 3 and 4 by Bellator female featherweight Julia Budd.

At the time Budd fought them, they weren’t the huge names they are today. All of them were still building their careers in a sport that still hadn’t fully accepted the idea of women competing in a cage.

Budd, a former kickboxer, saw an opportunity in Strikeforce, an early adopter of women’s MMA, and took the fights. In her second professional bout, she was viciously knocked out in 14 seconds by Nunes, who went on to win the UFC women’s bantamweight title and later trash Rousey, who’d made Budd a victim of her vaunted armbar in 39 seconds.

Those two defeats bookended a ray of light in Budd’s career. After losing to de Randamie on the kickboxing circuit, she won a unanimous decision when they met in a cage.

These days, Budd doesn’t take any particular pride in the fact that she holds a win over a current UFC champ. She’s just trying to find a more confident footing in the cage after those early, brutal setbacks.

Marloes Coenen

“It’s been kind of a journey,” Budd (9-2 MMA, 3-0 BMMA), who meets Marloes Coenen (23-7 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) for Bellator’s inaugural women’s featherweight title at Bellator 174, told MMAjunkie. “I feel like I’m finding my stride every time I get in there and fight. It’s just constantly learning. I feel like there’s so much improvement that I’ve done between every camp. It’s never that I’ve found my stride, but I’m confident in me being a complete mixed martial artist. That’s what I found in Invicta and continued into Bellator.”

Bellator 174 takes place March 3 at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The main card, including Budd vs. Coenen, airs live on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Budd’s rise in the Viacom-owned promotion has been on display; she’s won three straight since signing with Bellator, which touted her acquisition along with Coenen as two key pieces of the new division. Budd also hasn’t lost since those setbacks to Nunes and Rousey.

Coenen, however, is the most experienced and well-known competitor Budd has faced. A former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champ, she has almost three times the experience. But she’s also coming off a highly publicized setback, a submission loss to Alexis Dufresne, who passed on a title shot and now fights on the preliminary card of Bellator 174.

“To be fighting her, when we first signed with Bellator, that was the goal,” Budd said. “I feel like I’m very familiar with her from watching her so much and preparing for her.”

The matchup is actually a reboot from two previously scheduled fights. An original booking in fall 2015 was canceled when Coenen needed knee surgery, and a proposed booking this past May was scrapped when Budd sustained an injury.

But Budd hasn’t lost sight of the challenge ahead, and she’s eager to prove she can be the first female Bellator champ.

Across the promotional aisle, her old opponent de Randamie holds the UFC belt. As long as they fight in opposing shows, they’ll never get the chance to meet again. Budd, though, thinks she and Coenen will give fans a good reason to choose Bellator for women’s MMA.

She’s taken a long journey to get to this point, and she thinks there’s still a long way to go to make featherweights as popular as the division where Rousey made her mark.

“I feel like Bellator is still growing, but I think this title fight between me and Marloes is just going to bring more excitement and energy to the division,” Budd said. “We’ve been around in the division for longer. Hopefully, the other 145-pound fight is an exciting fight.”

For more on Bellator 174, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.



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