When Liz Carmouche steps into the octagon to face Ronda Rousey for the UFC women’s bantamweight championship Saturday night at UFC 157, at the Honda Center in Anaheim California? which is the first ever women’s fight in the promotions history, it won’t be her first title fight. She fought Marloes Coenen for the Strikeforce women’s 135lb title on March 5, 2011. She fought valiantly that night, taking the fight on short notice for an injured Miesha Tate, and was winning the fight until getting caught in a triangle choke, thus ending her night in the fourth round.
“I thought a lot about that title fight, because I lost that fight,” admitted Carmouche during a phone interview yesterday with Fightline. “It was a really grueling and trying experience for me, and it helped give me the motivation that I needed to push myself during training.”
The former Marine, and openly gay fighter has a lot on her hands in her match up vs. the undefeated former Olympian in Rousey, who is an overwhelming favorite to win at UFC 157 on Saturday night. She said there is always pressure to put on the best fight to represent women, but the majority of it will be on the current champion.
“I really feel that the pressure is more on Ronda because she really has to go out there and stick with what she’s always done and prove to people she can do it again,” Carmouche said. “Where, as for me, nobody has any expectations. So anything I do is just going to blow everyone away.”
Carmouche is no stranger to adversity, having served her time in the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” era of the military. A policy where anyone who was gay was forced to remain quiet about their sexual orientation, that now no longer exists. The fear and insecurity of someone finding out was much more of a burden than any fight could possibly be, according to the San Diego based fighter nicknamed “Girl-rilla.”
“Really I’m just excited for this, and there’s no excitement in being outed at all.”
Carmouche admitted to being insecure about telling her mother she was coming out, for fear of her worrying about the difficulties she might face, and disappointing her about not having grandkids. She proudly explained her mother accepted her without hesitation, it was telling her about pursuing a career in MMA that was far more difficult.
“She is completely against violence and against war,” Carmouche explained. “So it’s really difficult to tell a woman everything you want to do is exactly that, for somebody that wants peace and harmony.”
Carmouche has a strong fan base nicknamed the “Lizbos,”who started a Twitter campaign to put her in the running for her fight vs. Rousey, and has a tremendous amount of support in the LGBT community as well.
“They’re very excited about having a women fighter in the UFC, as well as having an open lesbian in the UFC,” Carmouche explained. “I’ve been embraced with open arms thus far by the LGBT community.”
She has also received strong support from Invicta FC, the promotion where she won her last two fights.
“Invicta and everyone that is involved in it, they gave me a great send off. I had some hesitation leaving that organization because they took such great care of me, and all the other fighters,” Carmouche said affectionately. “It felt like I was breaking loyalty. But I always had a contract with Zuffa and with Strikeforce, so they were kind enough to let me fight in Invicta. So in all honesty my loyalty was to them,” she confessed. “And Invicta, when I left they wished the best for me. They knew that I was on to better things. From the beginning they said ‘whatever you want to do we’re going to help make that possible.’ They’ve been nothing but supportive, they’ve just been amazing going forth.”
It’s only fitting that the former aviation service technician in the Marines chose fighting as a profession, since she was not privy to it during her five years of service. The ban on allowing women in the military on the front lines,which was repealed last month by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, was still intact during her tenure. She would have chosen that, and her scores on the ASVAB would’ve allowed it.
“When I took the test, it said that with my scores I could do anything that I wanted,” Carmouche explained. “So I asked. I was like ok I want to be on the front lines. I want to be infantry. ‘No you can’t do that because you’re a woman.’ Well, I want to do counter intelligence. ‘No you can’t do that.’ Ok well, I’d like to do Special Forces. ‘No, no you can’t do that.’ Every job that I wanted to do wasn’t available just because I was a woman.
Many experts are now clamoring that the job she is currently filling will end in a loss, and that just making it to the second round would be a victory, since Rousey has ended all six of her fights via armbar submission in the first round.
Carmouche chuckled at this when it was brought to her attention, and answered to Fightline only about what type of victory would satisfy her come Saturday night.
“Even if I can finish the fight in my own first round, first minute submission, I’d be happy with that,” Carmouche said confidently. “I’m really not looking to just settle with pushing it to the second, or third, fourth, fifth round. I want a strong finish. I’m not one to usually be accepting of just a decision.”
As shown on UFC Primetime, Carmouche works long hours at the San Diego Combat Academy, where she also trains. She is hoping for some financial relief now that she is fighting on MMA’s brightest stage.
“I really do hope that this puts me on a different financial level. I know that is Dana White’s plan for all his UFC fighters, so they can focus on fighting and it’s not a concern for them.
For now her concern is pulling off the huge upset at UFC 157 on Saturday night but, she would like to help out her gym and the people there that have given so much to her.
“I also want to give back to them,” Carmouche said. “They took care of me when nobody else would bring me in. They gave me a job when I couldn’t find one. So that’s my family, that’s my home.”
Now that the media blitz is winding down, Carmouche has had some time to relax.
“I’m kind of sitting around, lounging around in my hotel room watching TV for the first time in what seems like forever. So it’s not too bad.”
She will be fighting in arguably the biggest, most important fight in the history of women’s MMA on Saturday night…Not too bad at all.
Follow Michael Stets on Twitter: @Darcesideradio