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Twist of fate made UFC on FOX 8's Julie Kedzie a Jackson's fighter

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SEATTLE -- A memorable 2007 fight against Gina Carano was a pivotal moment in Julie Kedzie's career. For more than one reason.

First, there's the obvious one: Carano's thrilling unanimous decision win over Kedzie in Southaven, Miss., is considered the bout which put women's mixed martial arts on the map. The fight was held on the inaugural Elite XC card and the first Showtime MMA broadcast, and without women fighting in the UFC, the match was many viewer's first WMMA exposure.

But fight week also marked the first time Kedzie, who makes her UFC debut against Germaine de Randamie at UFC on FOX 8 at Key Arena on Saturday, made contact with legendary trainer Greg Jackson.

"What happened was, my trainer up in Indiana at the time had a medical condition and wasn't able to fly," Kedzie said. "So I flew down and I had a couple days to kill before my trainer got there. And I end up meeting Greg and Joey Villasenor and hanging out with them, and they were really cool guys. Greg comes off so laid back, I didn't even know he was this big trainer and a big deal in the business."

Up until that point in her career, Kedzie was based in Indiana and had done the majority of her fighting in the Midwest. After coming up short in her fight with Carano, Kedzie realized she would have to branch out if she was going to make the jump to the next level. So after the Carano fight, she accepted an invitation to come out and visit Jackson's famed camp in Albuquerque.

"I got out there and I know, right away, that this was it," Kedzie said. "Greg really was a big deal. It really was like a family out there, a great group of people. I knew right away that New Mexico was going to be my new home."

While Jackson's is best known for hosting men's champions like Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Rashad Evans, WMMA is as well-represented there as in any major camp in the sport. In addition to Kedzie, at one time or another, Carano, Sarah Kaufmann, Tara LaRosa, and current Invicta atomweight champ Michelle Waterson have trained at Jackson's.

That's helped Kedzie push herself to a day she never stopped believing she'd she. Twenty-seven fights into her career Kedzie finally becomes part of MMA's biggest promotion as she meets de Randamie in the opening fight of the FX portion of the crowd.

"All those years, Dana [White] said he'd never have women fight in the UFC, and I didn't believe it," the 32-year-old Kedzie said. "I'd tell people: 'I'm going to fight in the UFC one day,' and people would say 'yeah, sure.' You can call it destiny or fate or whatever you want to call it, but I always believed this day would come."

Kedzie (16-11) hasn't fought since last Aug. 18, when she lost via third-round submission to Miesha Tate in an outstanding Strikeforce bout in San Diego. Shoulder surgery kept Kedzie sidelined for six months. But de Randamie (3-2), an American Kickboxing Academy fighter who comes from a kickboxing background, also hasn't fought since that same night, when she scored a unanimous-decision win over Hiroko Yamanaka.

"She's a kickboxer, but I mean, so what?" said Kedzie. "She's come over from straight kickboxing, but I think I'm stronger in kickboxing for MMA. I think I know how to better apply it to MMA. So I'm not afraid to stand with her and I'm not afraid to take this fight wherever it goes."

And who knows? If Kedzie didn't find herself with time to kill that week in Southaven and had the chance encounter with Jackson, this day may have never come.