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Kedzie downplays 'pioneer' tag

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However, locally trained fighter is ‘just kind of MMA all over’

The journey has been a long one, no question.

Julie “Fireball” Kedzie, a veteran of women’s mixed-martial arts who has trained at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA for the past six years, will finally make her UFC debut tonight on the UFC on Fox 8 card in Seattle’s Key Arena.

“I’ve been at this for a long time,” said Kedzie. “I couldn’t be more excited to get this chance.”

While there’s no question the 32-year-old Kedzie (16-11, 3 KOs) and her camp are confident in her chances against former kickboxing superstar Germaine de Randamie (3-2, 1 KO), they do differ on Kedzie’s place in the sport.

“Julie’s a legend in women’s MMA,” Greg Jackson, Kedzie’s coach, told the Journal . “She’s one of the pioneers of it, for sure. I really feel she’s coming into her stride. She had a great fight last fight, and I think that she’s really starting to turn her corner after all these years and figure out what she’s good at.”

Kedzie’s 2007 fight with Gina Carano aired on Showtime. It was the first women’s MMA fight aired live on a major cable network and is considered the event that put the sport on the map in the United States. However, Kedzie points out there are plenty of female fighters who paved the way for her.

In an interview with UFC.com this week, Kedzie shot down the “pioneer” tag, despite it being used this week in numerous prefight articles from Sports Illustrated to Yahoo! Sports to several MMA-specific websites.

“I’m flattered that people think I’m a pioneer,” Kedzie said in the UFC.com article, “but I didn’t pioneer anything so much as I just didn’t quit.”

Her fight is part of a 12-fight UFC card headlined by UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson defending against John Moraga. Kedzie’s is one of six undercard fights airing on the FX network beginning at 3 p.m.

Kedzie, whom you’d be hard-pressed to find without a smile plastered on her face when outside the octagon, is taking tonight’s fight very seriously.

“She’s 3-2 in MMA, but she has a real extensive kickboxing background,” Kedzie said of de Randamie. “She’s like 80 feet tall, has knees from hell. Should be a good time.”

There is a distinct height and reach advantage for the 5-foot-11 de Randamie, but the 5-5 Kedzie has been around the sport long enough. She’s learned to take on all comers, regardless of style or size.

“I don’t even know if I have a very distinctive style anymore. I think I’m just tough,” Kedzie said. “I really enjoy striking, but when I’m going with a striker, I don’t mind going to the ground. I think I’m just kind of MMA all over.”

Which sums up why many in addition to Kedzie herself think tonight’s fight with the sport’s No. 1 promotion company is long overdue.

MORE ALBUQUERQUE TIES: Two lightweight men’s fights on tonight’s card have Albuquerque connections, as well.

Tim Means (18-4, 13 KOs), who trains at Albuquerque’s Fit NHB gym, fights Danny Castillo (15-5, 5 KOs) on the FX portion of tonight’s fight card.

Aaron Riley (30-13, 5 KOs) of Indiana, who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn, faces Justin Salas (10-4, 3 KOs) in one of two fights being webcast on the UFC’s Facebook page at 1:30 p.m. prior to the FX portion of the card.

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