When Julie Kedzie dropped a split-decision to Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Night 33, it marked her fourth-consecutive loss in MMA, dropping her lifetime record to 16-13. But even before the scores were read, Kedzie had made up her mind that she had reached the end of the road. Directly following the fight, Kedzie went on twitter to announce her retirement from MMA, after nearly ten years in the sport:
Before walking out to my fight today, I had a long talk with my coach and we decided that this would be my last MMA fight. I would have loved to have gone out on a win, but c’est la vie-don’t leave it to the judges. Heartbreak is a huge part of this sport. I really truly want to thank all of you for being a part of my journey as a fighter. I will still be involved in MMA for the rest of my life..but now it’s time for me to accept that I can give more to the sport by stepping back and taking role in helping to develop other fighters. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the @UFC, my team, and all of you who have made me achieve some amazing dreams.
Female bantamweight old-schoolers like Kedzie, Roxanne Modafferi, and Shayna Baszler have looked a step behind their more modern counterparts during their brief time featured in the UFC and on TUF, but it would be unfair to chalk it up to a lack of talent. What we’ve witnessed lately has been a generational changing-of-the-guard, in which the pioneers — who often start out one-dimensional, rounding out their games as they go along — are replaced by the young fighters who grew up with the sport.
Julie Kedzie began her career in 2004, when eight-person tournaments were still socially acceptable, before women’s MMA was readily available on television, and when there was virtually no incentive for a women to compete in MMA, other than the thrill of competition. After winning three fights in one night at the HOOKnSHOOT: 2005 Women’s Grand Prix — taking out Missy Karr, Jen Finney, and Molly Helsel — Kedzie became a regular in the fledgling WMMA circuit, tangling with other notable names like Baszler and Tara LaRosa.
Kedzie got her first big TV spot in February 2007, when she fought Gina Carano on the Showtime broadcast of EliteXC: Destiny, dropping a unanimous decision to Carano in an action-packed three rounder that marked the first women’s bout aired live on American television.
From there, Kedzie’s career endured the highs and lows of any regional fighter trying to make his or her way in the sport. She was part of Ultimate Women Challenge, which began as a promising TUF-clone for women, and quickly turned into a nightmarish fiasco. She also won the Jackson’s MMA Series women’s bantamweight title in April 2011, with a decision win against Kaitlin Young. It was the last time she’d taste victory.
Kedzie landed in Strikeforce, where she lost twice, first to Alexis Davis (by decision), then to Miesha Tate (by third-round armbar). Following the formal dissolution of Strikeforce at the beginning of this year, Kedzie was picked up by the UFC, and lost her Octagon debut to Germaine de Randamie by split-decision. Sometime after that, she decided that competing in MMA wasn’t in her blood anymore. By the time she fought Correia, she was already gone. (Thankfully, she left us with one more classic weigh-in moment.)
Since last year, Kedzie has worked as a broadcaster for the all-female promotion Invicta FC, and she’s also a contributing writer to Fightland, where she’s shared some incredible tales about her life in the sport. The point is, Julie has other things to occupy her, and she retired from the sport for the right reasons. Instead of slogging on for years in local shows, continuing to trade her physical health for small amounts of money, she recognized that being a pro MMA fighter wasn’t really working for her anymore. She doesn’t need it, so she left. Could have been worse.
Julie Kedzie helped build the foundation for American WMMA simply by being there when only a handful of women thought it was worth it, and for that she deserves all of our respect. CagePotato would like to wish Julie the best of luck with everything that comes after this. You can send her some love on twitter @julesk_fighter.