Julia Budd and Shana Olsen at Strikeforce ChallengersAfter alternating wins and losses, winning two fights in a row for the first time in her MMA career last year was a definite step forward for women’s 145-pound prospect Julia “The Jewel” Budd.

“It was definitely a big accomplishment,” said Budd. “I had such a roller-coaster ride for my first four fights, so it was a great feeling to win back-to-back fights for sure.

“I feel like I’m kind of coming into my own and becoming a mixed martial artist and not just a kickboxer-turned-MMA fighter. That’s kind of how I felt in the beginning, that I had to keep it standing and didn’t want to go to the ground, but now I feel like all the training has been going together nicely and I can be known as a true mixed martial artist.”

Budd was hoping to carry her momentum into 2013, but her return at Friday’s Invicta FC 5 in Kansas City has gone anything but smoothly, as she’s been through multiple opponent changes over the last several weeks.

“I was supposed to fight Ediane Gomes, but when Cyborg (Cris Santos) signed, they grabbed Ediane and put those two together,” said Budd. “Then when Ediane got hurt, they took Fiona Muxlow (to face Santos). Then I probably had a couple different opponents who said they were going to fight and then dropped out. So I’d say I prepared for five different fighters.”

Budd told MMAWeekly.com that she learned a valuable lesson from all the opponent changes: she now focuses on her game and what she has to do to prepare for fights and not so much worry what her opponent is going to do, whoever it ends up being.

“I just kind of let that figure itself out and just trusted I’d be on the card still and kept training and stay on target,” said Budd.

“My last fight in Invicta (last October), I think on eight days’ notice, I had Elaina Maxwell drop out on me, so now I feel I’m more comfortable in what I do and am not as much worried about what my opponent is doing.”

Budd is now set to face Mollie Estes. And for this fight, Budd plans on keeping the strategy simple.

“I want to keep this fight standing,” she said. “I want to go back to my Muay Thai roots a little bit and finish this fight on the feet.”

Having found consistency in her MMA career, Budd’s focus is now on going after the Invicta featherweight title, which she feels will come down to her and Cris Santos.

“I’ve felt that way my whole career,” said Budd. “But I never want to overlook anyone, so I’ve got to perform and do well in this fight to get that chance, so I realize how important this fight is.

“I definitely have a goal that by the end of the year I want to be fighting for the Invicta 145-pound title against whomever that may be. I’m excited to see how Cyborg performs, how Fiona performs; I’ll be watching them closely.”

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