Photo by Dave Mandel via sherdog.com
For a fighter so new to the game, Liz Carmouche has a lot on her plate.
Despite less than a year's worth of professional fighting experience, Strikeforce officials were impressed enough with the ex-marine's abilities to give her an opportunity to step in on late notice against women's welterweight champion Marloes Coenen.
The "Girl-Rilla" nearly put the women's MMA division on its head, dominating the champion for three consecutive rounds before a dramatic comeback triangle choke handed Carmouche the first loss of her career.
The upstart contender training out of San Diego isn't taking the easy road back. Carmouche will battle former champion Sarah Kaufman in her rebound fight, someone with over twice her experience and at an elite level on Friday night (July 22, 2011) at Strikeforce Challengers 17.
Carmouche spoke with MMAmania.com yesterday, just two days before one of the most important fights of her career, something that will decide how long she'll have to wait to get her revenge. She promised one thing:
This won't be your typical female fight. Expect lots of blood.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Well first of all, I guess I'll ask how the weight cut is going. You've got weigh-ins coming up very shortly.
Liz Carmouche: Oh, I'm on point for weight. I'm fortunate enough with keeping in shape all the time that I'm really close to my weight so it's really not anything to cut.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd love to talk about the situation you're currently in. You're obviously going from a title shot against Marloes Coenen in your last fight and now you're fighting the former champion Sarah Kaufman. It's kinda like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
Liz Carmouche: Yeah, but it's something I'm really looking forward to. I like to challenge myself and I like to compete with the best. Sarah Kaufman, being a former champion, is one of the best so it's something I'm really looking forward to. I like the challenge and I'm really can't wait for this fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you feel that you match up to her stylistically?
Liz Carmouche: I think we match up a lot which is something unique and different to what I've experienced. People have specific styles, for instance, Marloes Coenen. She's known to be a great grappler and a K-1 fighter whereas Kaufman is known to be a strong wrestler, ground and pounder and aggressive striking which is really similar to what I do. It'll be a big change for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had three and a half months to train and improve for this fight. What have you worked on the most that you felt you really needed to work on the most?
Liz Carmouche: I worked on everything. I didn't just isolate one thing specifically. I tried to adapt everything to ensure that I go in there as sound as possible.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're both very strong wrestlers and a lot of times when that happens, the wrestling neutralizes and it the fight is decided by the stand-up. How do you think your striking compares with Sarah's at least on paper?
Liz Carmouche: I think stand-up-wise, she throws some limited combos whereas mine are a little bit different. I'm pretty good at countering punches and slipping punches. Even this turns into a stand-up game, I think it'll be back and forth with me dominating.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've noticed in the Coenen fight, the Jan Finney fight, you're just so much physically stronger than your opponents. Do you feel at 135 that you're the physically strongest fighter, especially on the ground?
Liz Carmouche: I don't know. I think Kaufman is one of those people that is going to challenge my strength level and I'll see just how strong I am after this fight. Other than that, I can always hope that just based on watching them that I'm stronger than them but I'll never really know until I'm actually in the cage facing my opponent.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): it ever surprise you just how fast everything has happened for you?
Liz Carmouche: Absolutely. Everyday that I stop and take it all in for a second, it absolutely surprises me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's go back to your beginnings. I've read that you were repulsed by MMA when you first saw video of a really bloody fight. What kind of caused that transition from being disgusted by it to actually wanting to try it outt?
Liz Carmouche: Having grown up in Okinawa and having been introduced to and influenced by martial arts and having tried to learn off and on as a child, it was something that I always enjoyed but didn't necessarily have the time and the money to keep it up. As I got older, I wanted that discipline. Being in the military helped me and it seemed like everything I was finding, I essentially just surpassed it. Nothing was really challenging me and it was suggested that I try out MMA because it seemed to be the martial art I was looking for and it also challenged me physically. I gave it a try and of course the moment that I hit somebody, I realized it was for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your third fight professionally was for Strikeforce and it wasn't just a regular Strikeforce fight, it was a reserve bout to potentially step in as a replacement to fight for the number one contender. How did everything snowball so that point so quickly for you?
Liz Carmouche: It came as a surprise to me. My coach, after the first two fights, had seen my performance and had the confidence in me. We knew someone who had a connection in Strikeforce and they were willing to make a phone call and take a chance on me because they believed that that's where I belong. We were lucky enough that they took a chance on me and I got in. I think if it hadn't been for Ryan Johnson, there's no possibility that I would be in Strikeforce now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd like to get your thoughts on something. I talked to Tim Kennedy earlier and he said, in protest of Ranger Up not being allowed to sponsor him, he was going to wear blank shorts and a blank shirt when he goes out to the cage. Do you also have any kind of special protest planned since Ranger Up isn't allowed to sponsor at least with a logo on your shorts or on your banner?
Liz Carmouche: No, no special protest as of this point. I think Tim Kennedy is definitely a ballsy man and he takes some risks with his statements, his actions and what he's willing to say. I applaud him for that because I don't know if I'm necessarily and willing to take those risks.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had a chance now to fight the champ Marloes Coenen and you also saw, Miesha Tate live win the opportunity to become the number one contender with her two fights in one night. Can you break down how you see their fight playing out since you have some pretty good experience with both fighters?
Liz Carmouche: Yeah, I think Marloes is definitely going to try to utilize her stand-up. She is a K-1 fighter. She's very talented on her feet and I know that Miesha Tate is a great wrestler and a great grappler so I think with the two of 'em, it's gonna be a back-and-forth with one of them trying to push for the submission while Marloes tries to keep it standing to use her reach throughout the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel that the winner of this fight should get another title shot?
Liz Carmouche: I certainly hope so. I mean ultimately, it's up to the champion to take whatever bout they want but I certainly hope that that would be the result that the winner of this fight would be the number one contender for the belt.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If you ever had a chance to fight Marloes again, is there something that you would do differently the second time around? You did incredibly well for the first three rounds the last time out. What would you do differently?
Liz Carmouche: I would absolutely throw elbows (laughs). Definitely. Unified rules come into play with the Zuffa purchase and elbows thrown on the ground would definitely be beneficial. I certainly wouldn't shy away from going to the ground and I'd feel more comfortable in every aspect of my game. Not just standing up but also in my grappling, my jiu-jitsu. I certainly don't think I'd be in the same circumstances that I'd been before.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Oh, I agree. Marloes had 10+ years of experience and you're going into this fight with Sarah Kaufman having not even been fighting professionally for 14 months. How bright do you see your future?
Liz Carmouche: I feel like it's very bright. In such a short amount of time, like you said, I've already advanced so far and so fast that I think the future and the prospects I have, the possibilities are just so promising and so great.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Last question for you Liz. How do you see the fight playing out on Friday night? What can the fans expect?
Liz Carmouche: I've been asked this question and I think there's gonna be some blood and gore. I think with our aggressive styles, we're gonna be pushing the envelopes the entire fight and it'll be an awesome three rounds.
Liz would like to thank her trainers Frank Salgado, Tiger Smalls, Gazzy Parman, Matt Fort, Malel Watson and Manolo Hernandez as well as her training partners who's been kicking her butt continually to keep her in check. Also, she'd like to thank her sponsors Ranger Up, Akima, Forty Thieves, Build and Destroy, justoneyearmovie.com and GuardYa Grill.