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Roberts Creek MMA fighter competing at Madison Square Garden Friday

Sunshine Coast's Julia Budd faces former UFC athlete Aspen Ladd in a women’s featherweight bout on Nov. 25 at Madison Square Garden
Julia "The Jewel" Budd is to fight Aspen Ladd in PFL MMA World Championship at Hulu Theatre in Madison Square Garden New York City on Friday, November 25

Roberts Creek mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Julia “The Jewel” Budd will be competing at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 25 as part of the Professional Fighters League (PFL) World Championship event.

Budd, 39, faces off against former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) athlete Aspen Ladd, 27, in a women’s featherweight bout at Hulu Theatre in the historic New York City venue.

PFL, which describes itself as the “No. 2 MMA company globally,” is the first MMA league to operate under a seasonal structure, with fighters competing in a regular season to make playoffs followed by a championship event.

Budd had recently been preparing at her home gym in Roberts Creek, according to a Nov. 18 Instagram post. “I’ve had an amazing camp and I couldn’t be more grateful to all my training partners and team for pushing me and constantly bringing out my best,” she said in the post. 

Six title fights will take place Friday, with each winner receiving a $1 million prize at the league’s inaugural pay-per-view event. Two-time judo Olympic gold-medalist Kayla Harrison is competing against Larissa Pacheco for the lightweight world championship in the evening’s headliner. 

Budd (16-4) and Ladd (9-3) will compete in the league’s first female featherweight bout, which will also be Ladd’s league debut. She was released from her UFC bantamweight division contract earlier this year after missing weight on three occasions.

PFL will initiate its first regular-season featherweight division in 2023. 

“Fighting at Madison Square Garden is absolutely the dream for any fighter,” California-based Ladd told ESPN. “Finding out this is going to be the fight, this is the opportunity and right after I sign with them… I couldn’t have been happier,” she said. 

Budd, who trains out of Port Moody gym Gibson MMA, started in Muay Thai kickboxing before transitioning to MMA professionally in 2010. 

She won Bellator’s first featherweight championship and defended it three times then lost it to Cris Cyborg in 2020. She won her final bout with Bellator in April 2021 against Dayana Silva before becoming a free agent. She signed with PFL later that year.

At the time she told media the switch to PFL was “an easy choice,” citing the league’s “exciting” format and her desire for a “new start.”

“I was a proud Bellator fighter for seven years, became a four-time world champion there and I was ready for a change. And I’m ready to take over PFL,” she said. 

Budd won her PFL debut fight in the lightweight division, against Kaitlin “The Striking Viking” Young, in October 2021 in a unanimous decision. 

She lost to Genah Fabian (5-3) last May and was expected to compete against undefeated fighter Kayla Harrison in July but was forced to pull out after suffering from a fractured orbital.