With her third title defense and fourth straight contest in Thackerville, Oklahoma on Saturday, Julia Budd (13-2) continued to cement her legacy as one of the greatest featherweight fighters of all-time. Her first round TKO finish over formerly unbeaten Olga Rubin (6-1) was no less impressive due in part to the fact that she was able to showcase her excellent kickboxing base by weaving in-and-out, ultimately landing a right teep kick to the liver and following up the strike with a flurry of action to secure the win.
In her post-fight speech Budd was quick to thank her team and was already looking ahead to potential future opponents.
“I think Leslie (Smith) did great tonight,” said Budd of Project Spearhead Interim President Leslie Smith (11-7-1), who earlier defeated Sinead Kavanagh on Saturday night. “So Leslie Smith for sure, I’m super excited that she came over to Bellator. So, umm, that’s big and then I’d love to fight in RIZIN against a big lady named Gabi Garcia. I want to make history and my husband fought guys that were over a hundred pounds heavier than him when he started so it’s kind of like a family goal of ours.”
Gabi Garcia (6-0, 1 NC) as many will know has competed with both RIZIN and Road FC in the past compiling an undefeated record with all of her wins coming by finish and none lasting past a second round. In her last fight, Garcia weighed in at 226 lbs taking on debuting kickboxer Barbara Nepomuceno at RIZIN 14 on New Year’s Eve 2018. On the heels of Kyoji Horiguchi, Darrion Caldwell and Rena Kubota’s cross-promotional stints, a move to RIZIN for Budd certainly would not be out of the realm of possibility with deepening ties between the two organizations continuing to grow.
A name that has surfaced, both pre and post-fight has been that of Cris “Cyborg” Justino (20-2, 1 NC) who’s contract with the UFC is set to run out upon completion of her scheduled bout at UFC 240 against Felicia Spencer (7-0) on July 27. Rumours have swirled around where the power-punching Brazilian former featherweight champ might land once her obligations are completed with the UFC, but a move to Bellator could be seen as lateral, if not a step up in competition considering the lack of talent currently featured in the UFC’s featherweight division.
Tonight showed @BellatorMMA has the better 145lbs female featherweight division.— Cris Cyborg on Youtube (@criscyborg) July 13, 2019
Combining for a 69% finish rate, including 23 wins by KO/TKO, stylistically the two check every box. Their skills, high-level Muay Thai and kickboxing, go together to complement excellent defensive wrestling and under the radar jiu-jitsu skills. While they missed a chance to meet early on in their respective careers, a great relationship between Budd and Bellator (recently signing a four-fight contract) and Cyborg’s star push while dealing with Scott Coker at Strikeforce, are preeminent drivers for a likely title bid by the former UFC 145 lbs queen.
With a flourishing division of women’s featherweight fighters (three fights taking place last weekend at Bellator 224) and an increasing likelihood of cross-promotion between Bellator and some of the largest organizations in the sport, the signing of Cris Cyborg and subsequent title booking with Budd is the biggest fight to make at 145 lbs today.