A veteran soldier looking for a new type of war, one of the three round variety.
Not only looking, but laughing with joyous anticipation about the possibilities. It's only fitting a United States Marine Corps veteran would literally chuckle in delight when the topic of having in her next fight a back-and-forth, pillar-to-post, Fight of the Night style “three round war.”
So there was no hyperbole before UFC women’s bantamweight Liz Carmouche gave the following answer about the likelihood and want for a full 15-minute battle royale with upcoming opponent Alexis Davis. She laughed. Happily laughed.
“Absolutely,” declares Carmouche. “I think I've made myself pretty well-known that I will go blow for blow with another fighter, even at the cost of my body. Certainly, I think that's going to happen in this case. I think we've proven that we have tried and tested strong chins and we will take a very good beating and keep trucking forward. For that reason alone, I think that's going to make for a three round breathtaking, moment-by-moment, exciting fight.”
Only a Marine. Or, only a UFC fighter. Or, only a driven combat sports athlete gunning for a second shot at UFC women’s bantamweight champ “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
At 29 years old with an 8-3 pro record, the “Girlrilla” has had a breakout year thus far career-wise, recognition-wise, and celebrity-wise, but it wasn’t until the end of July that Carmouche got what she was really yearning for: a win inside the Octagon.
In the first bout on the main card at UFC on FOX, Carmouche collided with 21-year-old wunderkind Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade. It was a fast-paced two rounds of action before Carmouche dropped the hammer on Andrade in the form of her bread-and-butter ground and pound attack en route to a TKO finish.
“I had high expectations for that fight,” reveals Carmouche. “We had done a lot of research on Jessica and, while a lot of people in the US were not familiar with her, she was well known from where she's from in Brazil and she's got a record of 9-2. She definitely holds her own. She's really talented and she put up a really good fight in the first round and part of the second. I was hoping to showcase some more of my skills and not just to be known for my ground and pound, but show I'm a well-rounded fighter. Luckily, I took advantage of the situation that arose and went with it to achieve that first win in the UFC, which was a wonderful feeling.”
The goal of being recognized as a complete fighter in all aspects of MMA is incredibly close at hand for Carmouche. In her Octagon debut title bout against Rousey at UFC 157, she was the first of the champ’s opponents to ever put Rousey in a compromising situation or amount any significant offense whatsoever. The upper hand was achieved without the raw bullish power displayed in many of Carmouche’s Strikeforce or Invicta FC scraps, but she got Rousey’s back with some uber-slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu and nearly got that rear naked choke in as well. Carmouche’s hunger to continually evolve as a fighter is two-fold, from her own personality and to stay as the wolf leading the pack.
“I push myself, and I'm a perfectionist,” affirms Carmouche. “I look to be the best. I don't want to settle on improving my strengths; I want to improve on my weaknesses to be the best fighter I can be. There are so many people coming into this sport now that are so much more talented than people going back five years or even just two years ago. You can see that this pool of people is just opening up with such talent that you have to be on top of your game. You have to be improving. If you settle for even a moment, somebody will pass you. You have to work that much harder to be a better fighter so that somebody doesn't take your place.”
Up next for Carmouche is the aforementioned ruckus she is giddy about against tough as nails submission ace Alexis Davis. In the co-main event at UFC Fight for the Troops 3, Carmouche will collide with the Cesar Gracie product by way of Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada. In her UFC debut in June, Davis took home a unanimous decision over Rosi Sexton, which bumped up Davis’ win streak to three, including back-to-back rear naked choke finishes. In the past few years, Davis has hit a stride, winning six of her last seven bouts, with her lone loss being a bloody war which she nearly won in the end against former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman.
“Alexis has been around the game and is very well-known,” explains Carmouche. “She's been at the top of the women's division for a reason because she's a very well-rounded and talented fighter. That's something I look for in an opponent, not just somebody who is strictly wrestling or strictly striking or strictly jiu-jitsu, but balanced, and she's certainly one of those people. I think we stack up almost evenly. She does have a black belt in Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which puts her ahead of me, but other than that we match up stylistically the same. It's going to be an enjoyable fight for that very reason because you don't know exactly what's going to happen.”
While she was born in Louisiana, grew up in Japan, and lives in California, without a doubt the former Marine Corps helicopter electrician who served multiple tours of duty in the Middle East will be the heavy fan favorite at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
“Finding out that I was going to be fighting for the troops, it is an amazing opportunity for me,” says Carmouche. “To have been part of the military and seeing how MMA touches people’s lives in the military and gives them something to look forward to and to be a part of, that is a wonderful experience. And, on top of that, to be the co-main event - that's just a gift.”
Obviously, Carmouche is fighting to win to get back to a second UFC title shot and, in this particular bout, will draw extra fuel for the fire competing in front of her military kin. Beyond that, in 2013, Carmouche has become a face, a spokesperson, and a role model by simply being who she is out of the cage, which pushes her as a fighter in it. As the “Girlrilla” and the “Rowdy” one broke the Octagon’s gender barrier together in February, Carmouche separately broke down barriers of her own as the first openly gay UFC fighter. Admittedly for her it’s all unexpected, but she is pleasantly surprised to hear that she’s an inspiration for others and, in turn, that inspires Carmouche as well.
“I'll be walking about in town or to the grocery store and I'll have people coming up to me and people will contact me on Facebook about the impact I've had on people's lives,” tells Carmouche. “For me, I don't feel like I'm making that big of a difference or doing very much, but I guess just being myself and being open about my sexuality has made a big difference for people. It certainly is surreal. When I take a step back to really think about it, it just blows my mind (laughs). I kind of get lost in the process of what I'm doing in my life that I lose touch with that and it really takes a step back to really look at the impact it has on my own life and other people's lives. It motivates me to work that much harder and to compete for the community that much better than I already have.”
In preparation for Davis, Carmouche remains true to the gym that got her to the big show: San Diego Combat Academy. Besides being home to a top flight crew of coaches and fighters whose most famous contribution to the sport is the former #1 contender Carmouche, they’ve got a great sense of humor naming their fight team the “San Diego Team Hurricane Awesome of Awesomeness.” Carmouche’s head coaches are the team’s namesake, BJJ black belt and kickboxer Manolo “Hurricane” Hernandez, and recent California Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Priest “Tiger” Smalls.
“The fighting style of the gym is Vale Tudo, everything goes,” states Carmouche. “The personality of the gym, it would be a sense of family and that's exactly what it felt like when I came to San Diego. I'm loyal to my family and they're loyal to me. We take care of our family. If somebody is injured or needs to be picked up from the airport or if they need their house to be painted, we're there for each other and taking care of each other. We look to help each other out and that's something that helps us because we look to mimic each other’s opponents. Everybody there is committed to the success of the entire team as individuals and that's what has helped us succeed.”
This Wednesday, women will war in the Fight For The Troops co-main event as Carmouche tangles with Davis. “I'm going to showcase more of my skills,” asserts Carmouche, who is happily hoping for a knockdown, drag out fight with a little bit of everything as she pursues her second win inside the Octagon. “With Alexis, I'm going to have the opportunity to do that. That's what they will be able to look forward to, to see more of what I have to show off.”
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Liz Carmouche: The Evolution Continues
"I'm going to showcase more of my skills. With Alexis, I'm going to have the opportunity to do that." - Liz Carmouche