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Perseverance finally pays off

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Albuquerque MMA fighter goes from reality show to UFC

Three years ago, Julie Kedzie experienced women’s mixed-martial arts in its lowest form: an utterly failed reality show.

Next month, she’ll participate in women’s MMA at its highest level: the UFC.

Her scheduled July 27 fight in Seattle against the Netherland’s Germane De Randamie, Kedzie says, is a symbol of how far the women’s sport has come – and of her own drive and perseverance.

Kedzie, who lives in Albuquerque and trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, made her professional debut in March 2004. At the time, she recalls, “Somebody asked me what my eventual goal was. I said I was gonna fight in the UFC, and they laughed.

“It looks like I’m laughing now.”

The journey from “HooknShoot” in Evansville, Ind., to “UFC on Fox 8″ in Seattle has taken nine years and 27 fights, with plenty of ups and downs.

The lowest point might have been a September 2010 split-decision loss to Kaitlyn Young – not because of the loss itself, but because of the bizarre circumstances surrounding it.

Kedzie, 32, was quoted extensively Friday morning in a USA Today postmortem of the “Ultimate Women Challenge,” a reality TV show that began production in 2010.

Kedzie told USA Today she’d had misgivings about the project but signed on because – given the limited opportunities then available to female fighters – she felt she couldn’t afford not to.

“UWC” was a disaster from the start, leaving Kedzie with that split-decision loss (she defeated Young by unanimous decision in Albuquerque seven months later), no TV exposure and without $12,500 she was owed. She’s not trying to recover the money, saying she wants to get as far away from those memories as possible.

Even so, she says, “From any horrible experience, you can always derive lessons and learn a little bit more about yourself, as well. I learned, basically, what limits and what boundaries I’m gonna put in terms of dealing with other people.

“Even though it was a horrible experience, I did get to do things like sky-dive, which I’d never done before, and I met some really incredible people who are my friends to this day. And for that I’m very grateful.”

Kedzie (16-11) is one of 13 women under contract to UFC, most of whom were Strikeforce contract fighters when Zuffa, UFC’s parent company, acquired Strikeforce.

She had lost both of her fights for Strikeforce and was unsure whether UFC would keep her on. It did, probably because she’s rarely in a boring fight.

“I hate the word ‘deserved,'” she says. “I would never say I deserve it, but I do think it’s something that I’ve earned, honestly just by sticking with this sport since 2004, not giving up on my dreams and not giving up on my goals.

“So now, here’s a whole new playing field for me, and I’m excited about it.”

TAPIA FILM: Rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and boxing entrepreneur Lou DiBella have joined forces to help distribute a documentary film about the life and career of Albuquerque boxer Johnny Tapia.

“Tapia,” directed by Eddie Alcazar, is scheduled to debut June 15 at the Los Angeles Film Festival, with another screening scheduled June 18.

Jackson told the entertainment website variety.com that he was drawn to Tapia’s story by similarities to his own life.

DiBella headed HBO’s boxing division when that premium cable network aired the 1997 bout between crosstown Albuquerque rivals Tapia and Danny Romero Jr.

WHIRLWIND TOUR: Albuquerque’s Greg Jackson had barely touched down in Fortaleza, Brazil, before learning that tonight’s scheduled UFC fight between Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Derek Brunson and Brazil’s Ronny Markes had been scratched.

Markes was injured in an auto wreck.

“Wishing (Markes) a speedy recovery!” the ever-cheerful Jackson tweeted before beginning the long trip back to Albuquerque.

Earlier, Jackson had asked via Twitter what there was to do in Fortaleza. That apparently won’t be a concern now.

ELSEWHERE: Los Lunas’ Cody East (6-1) is scheduled to challenge champion Nick Rossborough (22-16) of Rose Park, Utah, for the King of the Cage heavyweight title June 22 at Albuquerque’s Sunshine Theater.

… Jackson-Winkeljohn’s Cub Swanson (19-5) faces German featherweight Dennis Siver (21-8) on UFC 162 in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 6.

… Brazil’s Diego Brandao (18-7), who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn, is scheduled to face Houston’s Daniel Pineda (18-9) on Aug. 17 on UFC’s debut card on the new Fox sports network.

… Albuquerque’s Emily Kagan (2-1) is to face St. Louis’ Ashley Cummins (3-1) on an Invicta card in St. Louis on July 13.

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