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Kedzie Takes Next Step

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Julie Kedzie says she wants to be known as the best female fighter in the world.

If that means collecting a little hardware along the way, so be it.

On Saturday, Kedzie faces Kaitlin Young in the main event of the Jackson’s MMA Series IV at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Albuquerque. At stake is the promotion’s newly created 135-pound women’s title belt, and in following standard championship fight protocol, the bout is scheduled for five five-minute rounds.

“I appreciate that I’m having a title fight, not necessarily for the belt — which is a great thing and would be wonderful if I could bring that back to my team — but I really appreciate the fact that I’m going to get the chance to fight five rounds,” said Kedzie, who is from Indiana. “That’s definitely a step I need to take forward, being able to be consistent for 25 minutes if it goes the distance.”

In Young, Kedzie believes she has found her toughest opponent in recent memory. The 25-year-old Minnesotan has a black belt in taekwondo and a striking-based attack heavily influenced by a background in Thai boxing.

Like Kedzie, Young is a former champion of the Midwest-based Hook-n-Shoot promotion. The Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product won the 2007 Hook-n-Shoot tournament by knocking out three opponents in one night — all in a combined 1:05. Young has since lost four consecutive bouts, but all of the defeats were to high-quality competition, including a nationally televised TKO setback to former Strikeforce champion Gina Carano.

Kedzie, who lost to Carano at EliteXC Destiny in 2007, believes that a meeting with Young has been a long time coming.

“Kaitlin and I have circled each other for quite a while in the Midwest as fighters. I’ve trained with some of the same people she’s trained with,” she said.

The two crossed paths last fall when they both were selected for filming of the MMA-based reality show, “Ultimate Women Challenge.” While the propects for the show don’t look promising (it was originally scheduled to air last year), Kedzie and Young were able to form a bond during its taping, when they were able to train together on a daily basis.

“I have an incredible amount of respect for her striking and her ground work. I think she’s a very good MMA fighter,” Kedzie said.

Adds Young: “We both trade with each other pretty well on the ground. And standing, the girl moves. I feel pretty confident in my striking, but she’s not an easy person to hit, so I think it’s gonna be a very dynamic, exciting fight.”

Though they call each other friends today, neither expects that relationship to hinder the action inside the cage.

“There’s absolutely no reason why we wouldn’t go into this as professionals,” Kedzie said. “I am completely against teammates fighting each other, but we’re not teammates.”

Young says she won’t even recognize Kedzie come Saturday night.

“When you step in the ring, they’re not a person anymore. They’re just an opponent, and it wouldn’t matter to me who it was,” she said.

Young is the bigger, stronger fighter and will likely use her an aggressive striking to press the action in the cage. Kedzie passed a similar test against a larger opponent when when she took a unanimous decision over Sarah D’Alelio at the Jackson’s MMA Series III in December.

Now Kedzie has the added incentive of keeping a title in the Duke City, even if that’s not her primary objective.

“I think it belongs in New Mexico. It belongs to Jackson’s MMA. Even if she won the belt I don’t think I would get an automatic rematch; I would have to work my way back up to get a title fight against her. For me it’s about the challenge of the fight, not what I’ll receive if I win,” Kedzie said.

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