Liz Carmouche is getting a lot of feedback -- both positive and negative -- on being Ronda Rousey's first UFC opponent. Some are upset and believe the organization should have found a more formidable opponent for Rousey, others are happy the organization is promoting an openly gay fighter for the first time in history. Just days after news broke she would be fighting at UFC 157, Carmouche talked about it all with Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
Despite her relatively unknown status, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) put faith in the California native by giving her the fight, a decision Carmouche believes the organization made because she was the only one to truly voice her interest in the match up.
"It was actually something I heard Dana White say before," Carmouche told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour on MMA Fighting. "That if you ask for it they'll do their best to give it to you. I figured the more I campaigned and asked -- that if you ask for something, you can't fail. I mean certainly if someone says no then you tried, but if you never try then you'll never know. So I had to try and give it all I had and it worked out."
"I think [the UFC picked me to be Rousey's opponent] because I was the only one that asked for it."
UFC President Dana White broke the news of Rousey vs. Carmouche last Thursday at the UFC on FOX 5 pre-fight press conference in Seattle.
The news garnered a wide range of responses from MMA fans and media, but ultimately UFC 157 will be a groundbreaking event for the UFC with two females set to headline.
Carmouche found out about the fight earlier in the week when White called her while shopping. Given the life-changing nature of the news, Carmouche was obviously overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity.
"This was really the first time [White] knew who I was and I got to talk to him," Carmouche recalled. "I looked down at my phone and realized it couldn't be anyone else but him. I was kind of getting a heads up that I should be getting a phone call from the UFC, I just didn't think it would be Dana White. And then got the phone call and he's like, ‘Hey, this is Dana White' and automatically I'm like, ‘Yeah, I know. I know your voice.' Trying to play it off like I wasn't super excited and overwhelmed.
"I just had this huge grin that wouldn't go away to the point my cheeks were hurting. He said, ‘Welcome to the UFC, you're part of history in the first ever women's bantamweight championship fight against Ronda Rousey.' He asked me how it felt and I said I'm super excited and gave him non-stop thank yous. And he said just wait for another phone call you'll hear from us shortly."
While she may not have the same marketability traits as Rousey, Carmouche has her appeal. Like some other fighters in MMA, "Girl-Rilla" is a former member of the United States Marines and moreover, is the first openly homosexual fighter currently signed to the UFC roster.
Unfortunately for Carmouche, even if she does pull off the upset against Rousey, her life story may not have the same appeal to fans as "Rowdy" and therefore the UFC may not keep around the female division for long.
White has publicly stated the women's division is all about Rousey, which more than anything raises flags about the organization's plans for the females beyond their star athlete.
Even though the monumental task of defeating Rousey is in front of her, Carmouche is already thinking about how she can fill Rousey's shoes in the media.
"That's still something I'm trying to wrap my mind around," Carmouche said. "The only thing I can chalk it up to is I'm going to have to fill those shoes. She's been doing a really good job, like you said a lot of people can give her (expletive) for it and not support her, but in all honesty if she hadn't taken the stuff she did, we wouldn't be getting into the UFC.
"We would be maybe five years, seven more years down the road that this would be happening instead of right now. Because she's doing things right, so I definitely think it's going to be difficult to take that place, I'm going to have to figure it out, but I know with the support of everyone I have in my life I'm going to do it correctly. "
Beyond worrying about all the fight-game politics surrounding the fight, Carmouche also has to focus on Rousey the fighter - a force that has looked as unstoppable as any in the sport's history.
Odds makers pegged Rousey as an astronomical 15 to 1 favorite over Carmouche, and for good reason. The first-ever women's UFC Bantamweight champion is undefeated (6-0) with all of her fights ending by first-round submission.
Some say Rousey's game is limited beyond her trademark submission -- the armbar -- but in reality that's all she has needed to win fights. Carmouche; however, seems to think Rousey has much more to her.
"I don't [think she's a one-trick pony]," Carmouche said. "She's definitely got a lot of tools in her toolbox and this just happens to be her go-to one. I mean if it's worked for her this far and she keeps using, it's just like her signature card that she's using. But she certainly has other tools in the box."
Like all of Rousey's opponents, Carmouche will be looking to keep her arms tight and avoid any submissions the champion may throw her way.
While that's clearly easier said than done, Carmouche plans on having her hand raised and not make the same mistakes as the six fighters who stood in the cage with Rousey before her
"Everyone knows what she wants to do and they let it happen," Carmouche explained. "Instead of implementing their own game plan they rush her, rush into them and take that armbar. And I think that's one thing, you know, everyone has that moment in the fight where they can change it where they freeze, and they seem to freeze and she takes advantage of it. And the key is to not freeze, the key it to realize it's going to be come and that's what she's looking for, and to not let it happen.
"And hopefully that's exact what's going to happen. "