"Fuck this." That's what Julie Kedzie calls her proprietary fighting style. She's trained in tae kwon do, Muay Thai kickboxing, combat submission wrestling and Brazilian jiujitsu. She's a mixed martial artist with a broad skill set. But in addition to her toolbox of time-tested, hand-to-hand combat techniques, she's got her own method.
“If I’m in a fight and something’s not working out—like maybe I’m on my back getting pounded—I’ll say to myself, 'Fuck this!' Then I’ll do what I have to do to change the situation.”
It’s a mentality programmed into the fiber of many successful people. But Kedzie practices her brand of philosophy by fighting in a cage.
“My favorite kind of fight is the all-out war. I love being pushed to the absolute limit and fighting until the bell,” says Kedzie, who brings her warcraft to the Route 66 Casino on Saturday, July 4, for a bout against Katrina Alendale.
It’s somehow incongruous to watch this cheerful woman talk about how much she loves to fight. She considers herself nonconfrontational and says she's never been in a real street fight. Still, as a competitor, she’s more than ready to throw down. Despite how it appears, malice is often absent from the cage. In fact, it gets in the way; fighters fueled by emotion can grow careless.
“Fighting is an art that combines mental strength with physical exertion," she says. "Although the fight itself is only about 15 minutes, the training camp and experience of preparing for that 15 minutes of war is incredibly gratifying.” Don't get her wrong. She wants to win her fights more than anything in the world, she adds. "But I really enjoy the process; the conditioning, the sparring, the weight cutting, etc.—all present different challenges that must be overcome day by day.”
Those very things she loves about fighting also make the fighting life taxing, even upon those who wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It's very hard to keep a balanced life between training and staying motivated and maintaining outside, separate interests," she says. "After a training session, I become kind of a hermit; I spend a lot of time reading or watching movies.”
Kedzie is one of 60 professional mixed martial arts competitors training at Jackson’s MMA gym. The female contingent of Team Jackson includes three pro mixed martial artists, two pro boxers and several amateurs. And while women’s MMA doesn’t garner the grand following of the men's, that doesn’t change how Kedzie feels about the game.
“A fight is a fight; a fighter is a fighter. Regardless of gender, to watch two highly trained athletes ply their trade is a great and exciting experience,” she says.
Like many of her fellow fighters, Kedzie is a transplant, having relocated to Albuquerque specifically to train at Jackson’s. Her journey to Duke City began in February 2007, when Kedzie fought Gina Carano in what at the time was the highest-profile women’s MMA fight ever, the first to be broadcast on cable television.
As the final bell rang, their furious grapple morphed into an embrace, as both fighters were cognizant of the glass ceiling they’d just fought their way through. Greg Jackson was in the audience, and after the bout he approached Kedzie, said he liked her style and invited her to come train at his gym.
“I left my boyfriend in Indiana, packed up my car, drove out, and moved in with Greg and his wife,” Kedzie recalls.
Since then she’s found her own living quarters and created a job for herself as Jackson’s personal assistant. Today, as Jackson trots his way through the gym, Kedzie is just a step or two behind. As someone who lives and breathes the sport of MMA, spending 12 hours a day in Jackson’s inner circle is a dream come true.
“Losing to Carano was a good thing,” she says. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have ended up here.”
Carano, meanwhile, remains undefeated and has become the first female MMA superstar. Kedzie, for one, would welcome a rematch.
“My fight with Carano was over two years ago and under a different team. Now that I am training with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, as well as my incredible teammates, I believe that I would present Carano with a very different fight, with a very different outcome.”
She has to get by Katrina Alendale first. So what’s Kedzie’s plan heading into the bout? She doesn’t blink.
“Take the fight to the mat," she says, "and ground and pound.”