Bellator champion Julia Budd wants a bigger challenge next — and by bigger, she means literally bigger.
The featherweight queen defended her title with a first-round TKO win over Olga Rubin in the main event of Bellator 224 last Saturday in Thackerville, and dropped Gabi Garcia’s name in her post-fight interview.
Garcia, 6-0 as a professional MMA fighter, usually competes in heavyweight or openweight fights at Rizin. The Brazilian grappler, a multiple-time world champion in jiu-jitsu, is 6-foot-2 tall and weighed in at 226 pounds for her last MMA bout, a first-round submission win over Barbara Nepomuceno in December.
“She’s talking about the size difference, saying that I’m a challenge for her, but no, it’s a challenge for me,” Garcia told MMA Fighting. “She’s undefeated since 2011, has way more experience than me. I didn’t even think about fighting MMA back in 2011. She’s faced great names in the sport, so fighting her is a big challenge for me.”
Garcia, who has fought at light heavyweight bouts before, would expect to have a 40-pound advantage over Budd if the fight is booked at 205 pounds — with Budd coming in weighing around 175 pounds. With the talks of a potential Bellator vs. Rizin card by the end of the year in Japan, Garcia hopes she gets the chance to face the Bellator queen by then.
“Forty pounds is a lot, but if she’s asking for that… Careful what you wish for,” Garcia said. “I never called anyone out, she’s the one asking for this fight. I’ll fight her tomorrow. I respect her a lot, but she has no idea what she’s asking for.”
The only roadblock that would stop Garcia from fighting Budd sooner than December would be the weight, if she had to make the 205-pound limit for it. Not even an injury she suffered recently, a right knee LCL tear, will prevent her from competing — she recently won the IBJJF Pan-American championship and a grappling match at Fight 2 Win despite the injury.
“I’ve been working on my striking every day despite the injury because that’s what I need to evolve at,” Garcia said. “I train boxing and muay thai every single day, and I’m also working more on my wrestling now. She’s a great fighter, but I’m sure I’d beat her.”
“Every day there’s a girl calling me out, and I’m happy with that,” she continued. “I respect Julia a lot. She’s a great fighter and is always in shape. She’s checking my Instagram stories every day… I guess she’s my No. 1 fan now [laughs].”
Garcia would expect the weight difference to be an advantage for her in terms of punching power — “My strikes are definitely heavier than hers, and I’d have an advantage if I can take her to the ground” —, but a disadvantage in terms of speed — “I’ve trained a lot with Cris (Cyborg) and when I throw a five-strike combo she responds with a 15-strike combo, so she’ll move way faster than me”.
“I don’t think she has punching power to knock me out,” Garcia said. “I’m not scared of her. I chose to be a fighter so I really want to fight her. She’s being very respectful in her callout, but she wants to make he name against me and that won’t happen. She made a mistake by asking for this fight. She thinks it’s gonna be easy. If I land a punch, I think she goes down.”