She did three tours of duty in Iraq as a U.S. Marine, but the defining moment in Liz Carmouche’s life came when she strode out to the Octagon at UFC 157 on February 23, 2013 and stood opposite Ronda Rousey, the two warriors comprising the first-ever female MMA bout in UFC history. How does the jarhead-turned-fighter view the sport that changed her life? What about her time in the Marine Corps? FightLine caught up with Carmouche while she was in Albany, N.Y. to stump for the legalization of MMA in the last state to ban it.
“MMA has given me a sense of camaraderie I’ve never felt anywhere else,” said Carmouche, who lives in San Diego, C.A. and runs a gym there. “It’s a sport and we are all athletes in the sport – nothing has deviated from that in my experience.”
How does her time as a fighter compare to her years of military service? “My military experience was very different from my MMA experience,” she said. “I did see discrimination, bigotry and sexism in the military. I haven’t seen that at all in MMA.”
She added, “When I got out of the Marine Corps I didn’t have a job. Ever interview I went to was a bust. MMA fights helped with income to get me back on my feet. I started teaching classes at my gym, I eventually ran a children’s MMA program, I watched that MMA program change the children’s lives and get them out of trouble, and I eventually became an MMA gym owner – all with the help of MMA. MMA gave me direction and financially stabilized me.”
Although female fighters have been around in some capacity for well over a decade, only recently have they gained mainstream (i.e., UFC) exposure. As such, scrappers of the fairer sex can still be considered somewhat of a rarity, even in the gym. How do male fighters treat her?
“Male fighters that don’t know me sometimes hesitate the first time we spar, but it usually doesn’t take more than one punch before they snap into practice,” said Carmouche. “The male fighters that know me don’t hesitate and treat me just like the guys. The UFC and everyone involved have embraced myself and women into the organization. I feel like they treat the men and women as equals.”
And what of her historic bout against Rousey – a bout that forever altered the landscape of the sport? “It was an amazing experience being involved in that fight,” she said. “Feeling the energy of the crowd backstage was empowering, electric and motivating. I didn’t see how powerful the fight was for women in MMA, but people did tell me after the fight the importance it played.”
Carmouche is expected to face Miesha Tate at UFC on FOX 11 on April 19.