Olga Rubin, who challenges Julia Budd for the Bellator women’s featherweight title at Bellator 224 this Friday, would love to see Cris Cyborg join the promotion.
After a year on the bench, Bellator women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd is back in action this week at Bellator 224. Going up against her, Olga Rubin. Rubin will enter the fight a perfect 6-0, and actually made her pro debut for Bellator back in 2016. After a couple of bouts on the regional scene, she returned to Bellator full-force starting with Bellator 188, and has won three straight fights in the promotion heading into the title fight Friday.
That in-house streak, and her undefeated record, have earned her the title shot again Budd, a Canadian who has not lost since a 2012 fight against Ronda Rousey back in Strikeforce.
Ahead of the fight, Rubin spoke to Cageside Press about her perfect record, training with Brad Pickett, and DM’ing Cris Cyborg to encourage her to join Bellator.
On the pressures of keeping a perfect record intact, Rubin told us that she doesn’t really feel them. “Not really. I know that this opportunity came from me having that record,” she said, “but I never felt like I was pressured to maintain the perfect record. I just wanted to go in there and win, I was never thinking of the record itself.”
Still, it’s that record that has brought her to the title fight. In fact, she had a shot at facing Budd sooner. “I was offered the title shot just after Cindy [Dandois, last year], but I didn’t feel like I was ready yet.” Rubin didn’t feel she’d had enough fights yet, and “I just started training with Brad Pickett. I just wasn’t really confident in myself. And I started training with him, I just kind of gained confidence, and became even more hungry for the work I was doing.”
Ultimately she took one more bout. “I really needed that fight with Iony Razafiarison,” she said. That came in February of this year. It was enough to give her the confidence boost to face Budd.
The keys to beating the champ are many. “First of all, physical strength is really important. Also agility, speed. I’ve been working on all of my game to be as well-rounded as possible, to give her a huge fight where ever the fight goes,” Rubin told us.
Rubin’s also gained some muscle, which makes sense going up against a physically strong fighter like Julia Budd. And unlike Budd, who has been out a year, Rubin has been active. She likes it that way.
“I think I just never stop,” Rubin said. “Maybe two days after each fight [before] I come back to the gym. And I was even hungrier to get more work in.”
As for Budd’s time away, and any potential ring rust, it may not be the advantage some would think. “Not necessarily. I think she’s going to bring her A-game the Bellator cage,” Rubin anticipated. “Because she’s hungry to keep the belt, and I’m hungry to win it.”
“I definitely expect a huge fight from her,” she added. “Maybe she’s even hungrier after being out of the game for such a long time.”
While this will be Rubin’s first five round fight, she’s not concerned with the extra time. When sparring, she’s going with five rounds in mind anyway. She was ready for five rounds in her past several fights, she told us. “I never finish like a three rounder feeling like I cannot do two more. So I’m very confident that way.”
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Rubin, who was watching Julia Budd back when the champion was fighting Ronda Rousey, feels she’ll be facing a very different fighter in Thackerville, OK this weekend. But then, Rubin is a different fighter as well. “I’m a completely different fighter than even four months ago, fighting in Dublin.”
And so while training, she’s focusing on herself. For good reason. MMA is rife with change. Rubin had at one point planned on taking on “Sinead Kavanagh, and she got injured.”
“I had really good coaching from Brad Pickett, telling me ‘you know what, in MMA, anything can happen. Just don’t spar with women who try to resemble Sinead Kavanagh, work with everybody. Build your overall game, because you never know what’s going to happen.'” How accurate that proved to be.
Now, tasked with defeating a champ unbeaten in years, Rubin is prepared for anything. Including going the distance, but she doesn’t feel it will come to that. “I think both of us are really hungry, so I don’t think it will go the five rounds. I anticipate a first or second [round] knockout.”
After that? There’s another name on the horizon, one not in the promotion just yet: Cris Cyborg.
Cyborg fights the final bout on her UFC deal later this month against Felicia Spencer at UFC 240. Where the punishing featherweight lands is anyone’s guess after that, but Bellator is a real possibility. They have a featherweight division, while the UFC frankly does not. Cyborg has a history with Bellator CEO Scott Coker, from their Strikeforce days.
“It would literally make this division complete,” were Cris Cyborg to join the promotion, said Rubin. “I actually texted her about that, DM’d her. Like ‘you know what, come to the dark side, come to Bellator, we have a division for you.'”
“It would be amazing to have somebody like Cris Cyborg,” she continued. “I think it could potentially bring more interesting people to our division.”
Besides, as she pointed out, “there are no real featherweights [in the UFC] except maybe two or three besides Cyborg. Who also joined in because they thought they were going to have a big division. Finally they told them to go down to banamtweight. It never made any sense, that division in the UFC. Most of the good featherweights are with us already.”
Watch Olga Rubin challenge Julia Budd for the featherweight title this Friday, July 12 at the Winstar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, OK. The card airs live on Paramount Network and DAZN.