Amanda Nunes, Germaine de Randamie and Ronda Rousey are all fighters whose notoriety has increased in recent years due to their success in the sport but for Bellator female featherweight Julia Budd these are opponents she has been aware of for many years.

Whilst at Strikeforce women’s MMA was still not fully accepted and the likes of Budd, Nunes, Randamie and Rousey were all in the process of building a career in the sport which meant their paths would cross early in their careers.

Before making the transition to MMA, Budd was defeated by Randamie on the kickboxing circuit however she was able to avenge this loss when the two met again under the Strikeforce banner.

The former Kickboxer fought all three women during her time at Strikeforce holding a record of 2-2, in her second professional bout she fought current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes but was bulldozed in just 14 seconds. Budd was also on the receiving end of a loss to former UFC bantamweight champion Rousey after she fell victim to the prominent armbar of the former champ.

In a previous interview with MMA Plus Bellator CEO Scott Coker spoke of his dream of creating a Champions League style of MMA event in which fighters from a multitude of organisations could test their skills against one another;  if this was to ever materialise Budd insisted a rematch against her UFC counterparts is something she wouldn’t turn down.

“Yeah those losses still bug me but they help drive me to who I am today, so I’m always down for a rematch. I’ve dreamt of those rematches but I’ve been so focused on this fight and Marloes Coenen that I haven’t looked passed anything.”

These are the only two blemishes on her record and since then Budd’s career has come a long way and she now is set to face Marloes Coenen for the inaugural women’s featherweight title at Bellator 174 which takes place on March 3 at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

Despite her losses to these current UFC stars, Budd believes these experiences have helped her become the person she is today.

“You know I think the early losses in my career made me look at my overall Mixed Martial Arts game because if I wanted to continue in the sport I had to make the changes mentally and physically going forward, so that made me into a more complete well-rounded fighter” said Budd. “I feel way stronger mentally and physically than I was back then and I think it helped me become who I am today ultimately.”

The 33-year old is undefeated since her loss to Rousey in 2011 and is currently riding a seven-fight win streak securing victories under both the Invicta and Bellator promotional banners. Since joining the Viacom-owned promotion the Canadian has won three on the bounce notching victories over Gabrielle Holloway, Roberta Paim Rovel and Arlene Blencowe on her route to title contention.

Her opponent Coenen is a former Strikeforce bantamweight champ and has almost three times as many professional bouts than her opponent. Coenen has been described as a pioneer of female MMA and is the most experienced opponent Budd has faced and could yet prove to be her toughest test to date; despite all this Budd insists she is looking forward to her upcoming bout at Bellator 174.

“I’m so excited to get in and test my skills against her, I hope the best Marloes Coenen shows up on March 3rd and I’m looking forward to testing myself against her.”

This is the third time that these two have been scheduled to face one another after a 2015 but was canceled after Coenen had to undergo knee surgery and a second bout last May was scrapped after Budd was forced to pull from the fight with a back injury.

Since returning from injury the featherweight believes she is now in the best shape of her life:

“You know I think I’m way better even better than before the injury because I’ve actually done the proper rehab and maintenance that I needed to do which I was ignoring. I can honestly say I’m in the best shape of my life physically and mentally.”

Across the road, old opponent de Randamie recently defeated Holly Holm at UFC 208 securing the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight belt however, Budd insists her only focus is the task ahead of her.

“You know I think it was cool watching that fight with De Radamie and Holly Holm and yeah for sure having the win over her was cool but I’ve just been so focused on this upcoming fight I’m not even looking in the past in any way but for sure it’s good to have a win over her. I think it makes it even better for when I win next weekend.”

Budd believes her upcoming bout with Coenen will bring energy and excitement to the Bellator 145 division which is still looking to find its feet not only in the organization but in the sport. She also went on to state her gratitude to Bellator for the opportunity.

“I’m so grateful they (Bellator) made us the main event for this card coming up and put us as the headliners with the title belt on the line and making it feel like it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve got three fights with Bellator right now and I look forward to being their champion.”

If successfully crowned champion on March 3, Budd admitted it ‘would be a coming together of so many years of hard work and dedication’ and is already eyeing a potential title defense in her native Canada.

“I want to remain the champ and I want to fight, I want to win next weekend that’s my ultimate goal and then from there I want to defend the title belt this year preferably and hopefully they come to Canada. That would be a dream come true, my family coming to watch me and that would be amazing to have the defense somewhere in Canada and fight for them again and to stay healthy and stay active.”

If Budd’s hand is raised at Bellator 174 she already has a potential opponent in mind for her first title defense.

“They’re having a 145lb bout on the same night as us, Alexis Dufresne who beat Marloes last year; I think that would be a great person in line as long as she makes weight next weekend.  You know if she makes weight next week and makes 145lb cool but she’s definitely somebody that I look forward to fighting in the future and especially in this organization.