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Julie Kedzie hopes UFC run makes her more than answer to trivia question

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Julie Kedzie has already guaranteed herself a small spot in any significant story when the history of women's mixed martial arts is told. But if she has her way, her most significant contribution is still to come, perhaps kicking off on July 27.

Kedzie (16-11) makes her UFC debut on that date in Seattle against multi-time world kickboxing champion Germaine de Randamie (3-2) of Holland in a match that is likely to take place on the FX prelims, before the main matches later that night on FOX.

But for now, Kedzie for finishing on the wrong end of two of the most remembered female fights ever held in the U.S. The first was in 2007 against Gina Carano. The other one was last summer against Miesha Tate.

Kedzie was almost a pioneer in the women's side of the sport, dating back to the HooknShoot shows in Evansville, Ind., for the first time all-women's shows presented in the U.S. nearly a decade back.

But her most significant fight came when she was in the first MMA fight ever presented on Showtime on Feb. 10, 2007. Six years ago, just the idea of men's mixed martial arts on premium cable was highly controversial. Showtime was taking more than its share of media lumps for making the call to partner with the new Elite XC group, run by boxing promoter Gary Shaw.

While Shaw's tenure as an MMA promoter isn't always remembered fondly, he was the promoter who made the call to promote Carano as one of his company's flagship stars. This was hardly met enthusiastically by his broadcast partners, who feeling the heat, didn't think the Showtime audience was ready for women fighting inside a cage.
Shaw was persistent enough to reach an agreement. The women's fight with Carano vs. Kedzie would open the show. But if the reaction by the public wasn't favorable, Shaw had to agree not to bring up the subject again.

Of course, the fight stole the show. Not only was the fight exciting, but the reaction of the two women and their celebratory embrace seconds after finishing three rounds of battering each other had an emotional purity rarely seen.

"You know, I think the specialness of that fight was very pure," said the outgoing Kedzie, now 32, in an interview with Ariel Helwani on Monday's MMA Hour. "Gina and I just wanted to fight. I really wasn't aware of the impact before the fight. I was aware afterwards. Losing that fight was the best thing that could have happened to me. If I'd have won, I'd have never changed anything. I'd have never joined Team (Greg) Jackson, which was the best thing for my career."

With the benefit of hindsight, she seems to only have fond memories of her loss.

"I hate losing fights, but just being able to contribute in that small way to more people training, more women getting involved in the sport, that means the world to me, and I'm lucky as hell I got to be there," Kedzie said.

But what Kedzie recalled about that night was something that nobody watching on television saw.

"She (Carano) put a card under my hotel room door, which I didn't see until the next day, thanking me for the fight," Kedzie said. "She's classy as hell. I love that girl, thanking me for the fight and thanking me for helping her make history. We fought against each other to accomplish something together."

But Kedzie visualizes an ambitious four-stage plan to solidify her spot in history as more than being than the answer to the trivia question of being the other woman in the first woman's fight that garnered national attention.

The plan starts against de Randamie, who only has five MMA fights, but was 37-0 as a kickboxer in Europe, and ends with being crowned UFC champion.

"I'd say I'm three good victories away from it," she said. "Provided things go well (on July 27), I'd like to challenge the winner of the (Liz) Carmouche-(Miesha) Tate fight (which will be the first women's fight on FOX, taking place later that night) and see how that plays. I think I'd match up well with Sara McMann as well. It's a very interesting fight.

"First things first, Germaine. As far as a good ladder, if I get through this, the winner of Carmouche-Tate, McMann would be the next step and then (champion Ronda) Rousey."

Kedzie nearly knocked Tate out with a head kick, before Tate came back and won with an armbar in the third round on Aug. 18, in one of last year's best fights. But Kedzie tore her labrum (shoulder) late in the fight and needed it surgically repaired, keeping her out of training for six months. Given she had lost her previous fight to Alexis Davis, Kedzie was definitely concerned whether UFC would pick up her contract when word got out that Strikeforce was folding.

"Yeah, I wasn't sure at all," Kedzie said about if UFC was in her future. "I had two losses in Strikeforce. You know Zuffa policy. They usually cut people after two losses. I will say my fight with Tate was an incredible fight, not to toot my own horn. Even Dana White said it was. I feel like now I'm coming into my own as a fighter. I believe I belong in UFC and I'm going to do great things there. But I'd have completely understood if they didn't take me on."

After being in the first widely-viewed woman's fight on U.S. television, Kedzie had hoped she'd get one more first.

"I first saw myself in the first female fight in UFC, but it didn't happen," she said. "Liz Carmouche and Ronda Rousey did an amazing job. I was really jealous of Cat (Zingano) fighting Miesha (in the second fight) because I wanted a rematch with Miesha. But it made me hungry. I think things unfolded the way they should unfold."