HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Julia Budd’s PFL debut was a successful one Wednesday, and now she’s firmly focused on winning a title with the promotion in 2022.
Budd (16-3) swept the judges’ scorecards for a unanimous decision win over Kaitlin Young (12-11-1) on the 2021 PFL Championship prelims. The former Bellator featherweight champion moved up to lightweight for the first time in her career, and that’s presumably the division in which she’ll compete in next year in PFL’s 2022 season.
“I actually could (feel the difference in weight),” Budd told MMA Junkie after her win. “I weighed in (Wednesday morning) at 154 (pounds). I know I’m strong, and I’m fit and athletic. I just knew it’s not about the size of the person in there. It’s everything else. But I definitely felt the size difference.”
In Wednesday’s main event, Kayla Harrison stayed unbeaten and won her second PFL $1 million championship in the women’s lightweight division. But Harrison is a free agent now, and it’s likely far from a certainty that she’ll return to the promotion to go after a third title.
Behind the scenes, that almost certainly helped make PFL’s decision to sign Budd an easy one. And Budd said she’s been excited to have a change of scenery.
“I spent four years as the champ (in Bellator) getting told I can only fight once a year,” Budd said. “That was frustrating because I’m an athlete with goals, and I want to get in there and test myself and have challenges. So that was really frustrating for me for a few years, but I think it shaped me into the athlete (I am) and one of the reasons I’m going to come out on top next year in the season.”
Budd won Bellator’s title in March 2017 and defended it later that year. She fought just once in 2018 and once in 2019, both title defenses, before she lost the belt to Cris Cyborg in January 2020. She finished her Bellator tenure of six and a half years with a 9-1 record.
Regardless of whether Harrison is back in 2022 to defend her title, Budd is likely to be one of the women’s lightweight favorites to reach the final.
“It was amazing, especially to be part of this championship finale,” she said. “The energy all week was incredible. But also the treatment from the PFL has been the best. It’s been a very nice change. I’m super excited. I’m excited I got my start. This kind of came together pretty quick, and I was excited I could get one more fight in 2021 – get out there, get the victory, and then I plan on starting that 2022 season off with a bang.”
Photos: Best of 2021 PFL Championship
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Twitter reacts to Kayla Harrison’s dominant $1 million title win at 2021 PFL Championship