While Julie Kedzie is known for her career as one of the most resurgent fighters in the women’s 135-pound weight class, she’s also heavily involved in a side of MMA few people get to see.
As the personal assistant to Greg Jackson, Kedzie helps coordinate one of the sport’s premier teams. While it can be overwhelming at times, it can also be quite rewarding.
Kedzie recently spoke to MMAWeekly.com about what it’s like to be a part of Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA and how what started as just helping out in time away from training became an integral part of both her career and private life.
MMAWeekly: Over the last several years the Jackson-Winkeljohn team has grown exponentially. How would you say things have changed since you joined the team and began working for Greg Jackson?
Julie Kedzie: I would say that the workload is just incredibly different now. The amount of interviews that he gets, the amount of things he has to get completed throughout the day is huge. Just keeping it organized at this point is insane.
Since four years ago, his workload has quadrupled. The amount of fighters that come in here and what itineraries have to be kept track of is pretty incredible. He usually gets into the gym around 7-7:30 in the morning and I try to get here around 8, and we’re here until 7:30-8 at night just dealing with paperwork, schedules, and itineraries.
MMAWeekly: You basically moved across the country from Indiana to New Mexico to join the team and have become very integrated with Jackson and the team. What has that been like?
Julie Kedzie: I think that was probably the only way I could have stayed here. It’s hard to live in Albuquerque, it’s a very, very poor city and finding a job here is very difficult. Just living here is hard, so if I hadn’t been so integrated in their lives, I would have struggled here.
I’ve seen a lot of fighters pick up and move here and not actually make it and decide to go back where they came from. I just have to really immerse myself, and the only way I can do that is be here every day at the gym. Because I love fighting more than anything else in the whole world, I’m at the gym all day long and I’m able to communicate with the fighters and Greg and just do what I love.
I’m not going to lie, there are some days where I don’t want to watch any more fighting, but to be around the thing you’re passionate about and to be around people like the Jacksons, it’s important for the happiness of the job. I’m not going to become a millionaire doing this, but I’m going to be doing what I love every day and that’s very rewarding to me.
MMAWeekly: What’s it like trying to balance your business dealings with Jackson’s and your own MMA career.
Julie Kedzie: What’s nice about it is, my career as a fighter, I learn by being inspired and through watching other people. As his assistant, I basically get to watch all the lessons he teaches throughout the day and I can kind of file things away in my head for later in what I’m trying to do. I’m at the gym all day long, which is fortunate because there’s always something going on and I get a lot of exposure to new techniques and new ideas every single day. It’s exhausting, but it’s also amazing.
MMAWeekly: What’s probably the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your time working with Greg?
Julie Kedzie: If you can ignore with the outside pressures and expectations around you and just come in here and train and love to fight and love to be around each other and help each other out, you’re really going to survive in this world.
This industry is super-tough. I had no idea how tough it was until I saw some of the most high-profile fighters out there and see the pressures they are under and see what they have to go through on a daily basis. The gym is a safe place. The gym is where people go and they can feel where they’re not being judged. They’re just with their family; they’re just doing their craft.
I’ve learned that is the most important part of having a team, that making the gym about fighting and family and not make it about those exterior distractions that you don’t really need.
MMAWeekly: What’s something that the fans don’t get a chance to see that you think they should know about?
Julie Kedzie: They have no idea the amount of work (Jackson) puts in. He works so incredibly hard. I’ve never seen a man so into work. I’ve seen lawyers at work and this and that, and come from an atmosphere of academics and stuff like that, and to see someone work that hard on their craft all day long is just amazing.
I know people can be dismissive of him sometimes or people think he’s just a coach because he sits in the background and doesn’t want all the attention for himself, or they kind of think that coaches show up, yell a couple things and then leave, but (in truth) they interact with fighters all day long and give everything to their fighters.
When a fighter does well, the whole team does well; when a fighter loses, the whole team loses; and we take it personally because we’re a family here. I think for the coaches it’s more intensified because they really care about what happens to their fighters. Not only inside a fight, but also what happens outside, like if someone’s injured.
There’s a lot more than meets the eye. There’s a lot more then what happens in the three or five rounds you see on TV. I just the hope there’s a level of awareness and respect for their passion for this sport.
MMAWeekly: In closing, is this where you feel you are meant to be, or does the road still have further go for you that you’re aware of?
Julie Kedzie: I really do think my life is supposed to be here. I do have kind of a restless spirit and every summer I get interested in what’s going on elsewhere, but right now I’m very happy and settled. The people here and the gym are amazing. Even if I wasn’t training, I think I would want to be around the environment that I’m in and the people here; learning from them not only about fighting but how to interact and be a good person.
A lot of times we see fighters in an entertainment sense, but when you see them in the gym and their interactions you see the best of them and what you can be. It gives you a lot of hope and makes you think this is a good world. Even when the shit’s going down everywhere else, you get to see people interact with each other in a real genuine way here, even if it’s by punching each other in the face.