CageToday.com caught up with Julie Kedzie, recently signed AFL fighter and the first female MMA fighter to be sponsored by the clothing company Tapout.
Julie was featured last week on the current season of the reality show Tapout on Versus. She currently trains with Greg Jackson camp out in Albuquerque. In this interview she discusses the show, training with Team Jackson, and her future with the AFL.
CageToday.com: Can you tell me a little bit about your martial arts background and how you got started in MMA?
Julie Kedzie: I began training when I was about four years old in Tae Kwan Do and then my family moved to Indiana when I was about twelve. I joined a school called the Joe County Martial Arts, continued my Tae Kwan Do training, and there they offered cross training. By the time I was 18 I kind of discovered Muy Thai and combat submission wresting and Brazilian Ju jitsu. – and I fell in love with them (laughs).
Speaking of the Tapout show, how was your experience hanging out with the Tapout crew?
JK: I love those guys. They were awesome. You didn’t get to see half of the stuff that we went though (laughs), it was so funny. Theyre just a really, really great group of guys who are passonate about the sport and the fighters. It’s amazing to have them behind me.
You got a makeover before the fight in the show, how long has that been a pre-fight ritual for you?
JK: Well, it’s not always as intense, you know all the makeup and stuff like that, but I usually go get my nails done. I usually do somehting like that before a fight just because, you know, you all have your little vanities and stuff and (laughs) it is a nice relaxing gesture on my part.
So, will we ever see a blonde Julie Kedzie again or is it strickly brunette from now on?
JK: Actually, I’m blonde again. That show was filmed in April and its taken me so long and so much time to keep the black up that I finally just went back to blonde. So, Im blonde again.
On the show, you seemed very happy-go-lucky, but before the fight you transitioned, you were really focused. What are you thinking about just before a fight?
JK: Just before a fight I try to really quiet my mind down. You can see how anxious I get. And a lot of that anxiety is not so much “am I gonna get hurt,” it’s more of a pride thing you know (laughs) I don’t want to look like an idiot, I don’t want to let my team down — that kind of thing. To quiet my mind on all of that, I just do a lot of breathing and focusing on my fight plan. I think “okay, if she hits me with this, I’m going to come back with this or I’m gonna enter with this,” and that just kind of calms me down because that’s what we work on everyday before a fight.
You fought Gina Carano in the first live MMA bout on cable TV, now your the fist female MMA fighter to be sponsored by Tapout. Do you feel that these accomplishments make you a pioneer in Mixed Martial Arts?
JK: I’ve never considered myself in that role. That, you know, that’s a lot of responsibility (laughs) but you know, I’m really happy to open doors for other female fighters. I guess if people want to consider me a pioneer, that’s great. I’ve had my pioneers that I’ve looked up to like Debbie Purcell and Tara Larosa. These people who are still active fighters, but it really paved the way for me. So I guess if people looked at me as a source for opening doors then — yeah — that’s great. (laughs)
We got to see a little bit of Greg Jackson in his gym. How did you start training with the Jackson camp?
JK: I actually joined the Jackson camp right after my fight with Carano. I think he said on the show, he didn’t before care that much about female MMA, cause he has this stable pool of male fighters that he’s concentrating on. He saw that fight and he started scouting me from it, and he called me up and asked me to join the team. And I am a total idiot because I had no idea who he was. (laughs) He’s just this friendly guy I met at the Elite XC show. I was like “oh yeah, my corner can’t come to my Russia fight so can you come corner me on this” and he’s like “okay, do you want to come train here with me first?” (laughs), so I went to New Mexico and I was like “oh, there’s Diego Sanchez – oh, there’s Kieth Jardine — holy crap, this is the guy who trains these guys- whoa” (laughs). You know, he was a really friendly nice guy and I didn’t know he was this huge famous person. After I fought in Russia, we went to Las Vegas for one of the fights and he gets mobbed and I’m like “oh, he’s a celebrity, I didn’t know that.” So, yeah, I’m kind of dumb.
What’s one of the hardest things he puts you through when you’re preparing for a fight?
JK: I guess a lot of our mental training, like you saw us running on copper hill and stuff like that. We also do like, we run up sand dunes, so I think that a lot of it, the hard parts are the mental parts. That’s where his fighters really excel, I think is the mental toughness. He makes it a whole process. You have to grow with him physically, but you also have to grow mentally and emotionally as a person. So I would say a lot of the tests that he puts us through is the hard part.
You mentioned before that Greg went with you to Russia in your corner, you’ve had two fights in Russia now. What’s the difference between fighting there compared to the U.S.?
JK: Well, the organization I was fighting for was Bodog, and unfortunately Bodog is over, but the first time I fought in Russia against Amanda Buckner, I wasn’t training with Greg Jackson. Obviously my game shows it. In fact, I just, I don’t know that my technique was so much bad, as metally I was kind of like ‘oh I’m getting choked’ so I’m done. You know, my mental thing wasn’t there. But the fight, it was basically I think it was Shoto rules so fighting in Russia was no real difference, I would say that the first fight, it was a closed circuit fight, and it was part of a two week filming process, so there weren’t that many people there except other fighters watching. But the second time I went to Russia, when Greg was with me, Fedor and Aleksander Emilanenko were on the card, so it was a huge stadium filled with people, so it was more like a Pay-per-view type of deal. But the rules were the same.
Did you get a chance to meet Fedor or Aleksander?
JK: I did, I was in the same dressing room as Aleksander, but he was focused on the fight so I didn’t really talk to him. But we actually, after the fight, went to the Presidential Palace and had this high tea with Vladimir Putin It was crazy. Fedor was there and I got my picture taken with him. We didn’t really talk very much but he smiled at me, which was really nice of him because I had just beaten his teammate, which you know, if someone had just beaten my teammate I’d be like ‘hey, I’m really not happy with you.’ But he was real friendly, you know.
You recently made a deal with American Fight League, what kind of a contract did you sign with them?
JK: I signed a three fight contract with them, with an option for a fourth fight. So, I’m not really at liberty to disclose all the details of it, but it’s a good contract and they look like a great fight league. If only for the female talent that their recruiting. They’re getting the best 135ers in the world. No, I’m really happy about that, I’ll be fighting some really tough girls.
They definitely have great talent. Also signed is Tara Larosa. Now that you’re more experienced are you looking forward to a possible rematch with her?
JK: Oh yeah, I want to rematch everyone who’s beaten me. (laughs) But you know, I want to take that fight when I’m ready for it, when Greg says, “hey, now is the time to fight her” then I’ll fight her. The nice thing about Tara is, she’ll fight anybody, and she’ll still be nice to them. I have a really good relationship with her, so I imagine we’ll fight and drink beer afterwards (laughs). But I don’t know when.
So what’s next for you? Do you have a fight scheduled? Anything coming up?
JK: No, at the moment, AFL hasn’t given me any dates or any opponents. So I’m basically training hard and helping out my female teammates. Michelle Waterson just signed with Elite XC and I think she’ll be fighting soon, so I’m looking forward to that.
Julie, that you very much for the interview. Are there any people or sponsors that you would like to mention?
JK: Oh, well of course Tapout, and everybody at Greg Jackson’s gym, you know Greg and his wife and his kids, they feel like my family. They’re wonderful. So thank you to them.