Canadian featherweight Julia Budd sees the upcoming 2023 PFL season as a restart, or rebirth.
Budd (16-5), a former Bellator MMA women’s featherweight champion, faces PFL lightweight champ Larissa Pacheco in the main event of PFL 2 on April 7, with the league hosting the featherweight division for the first time after three seasons of women’s lightweight fights.
“Last year, obviously the 155 pound season didn’t go as planned for me; I was out after that first fight. So basically I’m looking at this year as a brand new, fresh start and I can’t wait to get in there,” Budd told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview.
Getting Pacheco right out of the gate is “absolutely” something Budd likes, she stated.
“It motivates me. I made a lot of changes this year, and I found out about the fight in January, but I was already getting in shape, and getting ready for the season, anticipating a fight like this right away.”
Among the changes for Julia Budd in 2023 has come cross-training at Fight Ready in Arizona. Throughout her career, Budd has trained with husband and UFC vet Lance Gibson at their own gym, where stepson Lance Gibson Jr., a Bellator MMA athlete, also trains in preparation for his fights. As both their careers progressed, however, training at home became a bit hectic.
“We just kind of realized we needed some help,” Budd admitted. “It’s kind of like, get out of the comfort zone, get a new look at everything. That’s kind of what 2023 is all about, kind of a restart, rebirth so to speak.”
In terms of why Budd chose Fight Ready in particular, where Jon Jones has also put in time, she explained that “Just the coaching staff, the athletes, it’s been super motivational. Just watching Henry Cejudo training for his upcoming fight, seeing the discipline, how serious he takes it.” The level of training, and just being there with new training partners has been both challenging, but an excellent learning opportunity, Budd added.
Pacheco turned heads when she defeated promotional darling and two-time PFL women’s lightweight champ Kayla Harrison in last year’s final. Budd wasn’t entirely surprised, given the amount of cage time the pair had together. And she’s expecting a tough fight when her and Pacheco clash on April 7.
“I expect her to bring it. I expect her— obviously she’s coming down in weight at 145, I imagine she wants to be the champ in this division too. But I’m just really focused on myself and developing myself, and bringing out my very best,” Budd said. “Training, being extremely disciplined for this camp, implementing a ton of new stuff and hitting new levels in every area of my game so I can bring out my best.”
“So I’m expecting her to bring her best and I’m definitely bringing my best.”
While Pacheco is looking for a second PFL title in a new weight class, Budd herself is looking to become a two-promotion champ. “It’s what my goals are, that’s what my eyes are set on,” said Budd, who then took a step back, refusing to look past her opponent. “One step at a time. Obviously this fight is like, I know about her power, her knockout power, I’ve been watching all her fights, studying her. It’s definitely a fight that wakes me up in the morning and gets me bringing my best to every single training session.”
In the past, Pacheco has had struggles with weight — missing the lightweight limit in 2021, despite having competed as a bantamweight in the past. Budd addressed that, and her own return to featherweight, after feeling undersized in a losing effort to Genah Fabian last year.
“It is what it is. I’m going to be making weight. This is my weight division, this is a way better weight division for me than 155. To be honest, that first fight that I got, Genah weighed in at 180 fight week. That’s who I was up against, I was up against almost a middleweight in my first fight, and I’m walking around at 154, barely cutting— I wasn’t cutting weight for 155. So seeing my size disadvantage in that first fight, that’s just really not my weight class, I never settled there. 45 is where I’m at, where I’m better, where I’m the strongest. This is my weight class.”
“I can’t be worried about what she’s going to do, or lack of professionalism,” Budd added. “I just got to make sure I make weight, I do my job, and I get in there and do my absolute best. So that’s what I’m focused on.”
Having lost a close decision to Aspen Ladd in the fall, Budd has also taken note of Pacheco’s comments claiming the Canadian isn’t the same fighter since her loss to Cris Cyborg three years ago. “It was kind of that extra fuel that I needed going forward. I was like ‘okay, I’m going to show everybody that I’m better than I was when I fought her, that I’m more motivated.'”
Watch our full interview with PFL 2 women’s featherweight Julia Budd above.