Bellator MMA crowned its first women’s featherweight champion this past weekend at Bellator 174 when Canadian combat sports star “The Jewel” Julia Budd defeated Dutch veteran Marloes Coenen to capture the belt. Budd became Bellator’s first women’s champion in three years.

Budd controlled much of the fight, landing takedowns in each round. In the fourth frame, she brought Coenen to the canvas and unleashed a vicious ground-and-pound to get the win.

Julia Budd’s MMA beginnings and Invicta

Budd made her professional MMA debut in 2010 after signing with Strikeforce and finishing Shana Nelson in the second round of their fight. The Jewel’s went 2-2 in the organization with a win over Germaine de Randamie and losses to Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey. That’s quite a list of opponents for Budd in her early days as all three of these women currently hold or have previously held UFC titles.

Prior to transitioning to MMA, Budd had an extensive professional kickboxing/Muay Thai background that includes a victory over Gina Carano.

After Strikeforce, Budd signed with Invicta Fighting Championships in 2012 and went 4-0 in the promotion, with three of those wins being finishes. Budd’s last Invicta win was over former title contender Charmaine Tweet.

Julia Budd climbs Bellator ladder

While some fans thought Budd was on her way to a featherweight title shot against Invicta champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino, Bellator announced it signed her to a contract.

Budd’s ascension to title contender status began with wins over Gabrielle Holloway, Roberta Rovel and Arlene Blencove.

Budd and Coenen were set to clash for the women’s featherweight title in May of last year, but an injury sidelined her from the fight.

Julia Budd’s reign going forward

As a fan, seeing Budd win her first major championship was one of those feel-good moments in mixed martial arts. Like many fighters, she had somewhat rocky start, but she has since evolved her skillset.

I think some fighters, like Budd, who come into mixed martial arts with a background in Muay Thai or boxing are sometimes underestimated because they don’t have a strong grappling background. But MMA is about training in and using different skillsets and Budd has focused a lot of time on her wrestling -- and its paid off.

The crowning of Budd as the women’s featherweight champion seems to signify that Bellator is serious about featuring the women’s 145 division, and it will be interesting to see who will rise up as contenders for The Jewel's title.

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