Liz Carmouche had a very up and down 2011.
She proceeded to wow fans around the world by nearly pulling off the upset, beating on Coenen for over three rounds before slowing down and getting caught in a triangle choke in the fourth.
A potential number one contender's bout against former champion Sarah Kaufman followed, but Carmouche was no match for Kaufman's stand-up skills, losing a unanimous decision.
Since then, the former marine has had trouble finding fights, having multiple bouts fall through before an opportunity with Invicta arose. She'll now be taking on ex-boxer Ashleigh Curry this Saturday night (April 28, 2012) at the inaugural Invicta Fighting Championships event.
Carmouche spoke with MMAmania.com about the frustrations of a long layoff, finally working with female sparring partners and the pressure to put on a great performance against Curry in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The longest stretch in your career that you'd ever had without a fight before this stretch was four months. What's it been like being on the sidelines for so long?
Liz Carmouche: I feel like a wild caged animal. (laughs) It's driving me nuts! I've tried to get in there as much as I can, but the opportunities just seemed to keep falling through until now. It's honestly driving me nuts. I'm anxious to get in there, super-excited for Saturday.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was going to ask if it was a conscious decision to sit out, perhaps injuries or if you had a really difficult time finding fights.
Liz Carmouche: I honestly just had a really difficult time finding fights. We had a few offers and at the last minute, the people decided to pull out for one reason or another and it just didn't seem to work out.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you thankful that Zuffa and Invicta seem to have this agreement which allows you to get these extra fights in in other promotions outside of Strikeforce?
Liz Carmouche: Yeah, I'm absolutely grateful. Like I said, up until this point, I've been going nuts trying to get back into the cage and it just hasn't lined up in Strikeforce and I'm just so grateful that they allowed me to have the opportunity to step outside and get more fights in and Invicta was willing to offer that for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So tell me what it's like to be fighting for Invicta, an all-female promotion?
Liz Carmouche: It's an honor because honestly, in the US, this is a marker so I'm potentially making history and to be one of the first people to fight on this card and to be a part of that history is just amazing to me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm always interested in body art for fighters. What's the significance in the tattoo on your left side?
Liz Carmouche: The tattoo on my left side represents a few things. One, growing up in Okinawa, it kind of falls into that Asian theme and it also represents the Chinese zodiac for my sister and my mother and I didn't want to go with my rat sign so I went with the normal Pisces so I threw a fish in there as well. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): About this upcoming fight, your opponent isn't the caliber of the elite competition you faced in 2011 but she's still very experienced. She's 1-0 in MMA but she's got that boxing experience. What are you expecting when you step in there against Ashleigh Curry?
Liz Carmouche: I'm expecting that, like you said, she'd had 10 fights as a professional boxer and then one as a professional MMA fighter so she is by no means inexperienced. I expect her to be a veteran and her to be preparing just same way I am. So going in there, I expect it to be a bloody and vicious fight just like all of them are.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were outstruck in your last fight by Kaufman. Mentally, I know you're facing a boxer, but do you kind of want to go out there and prove yourself in the stand-up against Curry, almost to prove something to yourself?
Liz Carmouche: Yeah, there's always that pressure where you want to show that I've stepped outside of that and I've grown. I certainly want to go out there and prove that I do have some boxing skills and that it was just one fight and I'm not limited in that area.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is it difficult at all to get as pumped up for this fight because your last three bouts against Jan Finney, Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman were all against former Strikeforce champions or title challengers?
Liz Carmouche: No, not at all. The only big difference is that all the people I've fought so far are right handed and she's a southpaw. That's really the only difference. I've been out of it for almost a year now so if anything there's more affecting me this fight because I've been out of it for so long than any of the other ones.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there any pressure at all to put on a good show since this is the debut of an all-women MMA event?
Liz Carmouche: My goal is to always put on a great performance and try to outdo what I did the last time around. that's definitely in the back of my mind, to exceed what I did before. There certainly is a pressure. This is an all-women show and we have to put on a good first impression. There's always gonna be that pressure to exceed your last fights.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In preparation for this fight, you worked with some new sparring and training partners at Team Hurricane Awesome so I was wondering, what's it like training with several women in the lead-up to this fight instead of men like you're used to. What's different?
Liz Carmouche: Yeah, it is different. One thing that's different is the jokes. If you hit someone in the chest that's a guy, who cares, but if it's a chick, you can scream out "breast cancer" which is the goofy popular thing between us. Just the humor, we seem to push each other differently than we do with the guys. When you spar with guys, they don't want to get knocked out by a girl or injured by a girl so they're gonna go 110 percent with you and then maybe go 90 percent with the guys. With the girls, we're trying to push each other, trying to learn new things and the encouragement is just completely different.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now that there's been so many shake-ups in the women's division in Strikeforce with the title changing hands and people leaving, do you feel like if you can go out and get this win, will you be right back up there on their level again?
Liz Carmouche: I certainly hope so. I'm definitely hoping this fight will show Strikeforce that I'm prepared and ready to get back into the high rankings again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ranger Up is allowed to sponsor you with Invicta. I don't think they can work with Strikeforce, but how nice is it that you get to have them backing you up again?
Liz Carmouche: It's great. I like to keep my loyalties with the sponsors that gave me the support when many of us wouldn't. To have to shed them when Zuffa bought out Strikeforce, I felt like I'd broken my loyalties and to be able to have that support again, it's really great to be able to do that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you close your eyes and picture victory against Ashleigh Curry, what do you see?
Liz Carmouche: You know, I've pictured different versions of the fight from decisions to submissions to TKO or knockout that I think I'm ready at this point for whatever opportunity that opens up.
Liz would like to thank her strength and conditioning coach Bill Crawford, Matt Fort for teaching wrestling and Manny her primary MMA coach. She's also like to thank her training partners Christine Stanley, Rebecca Levine, Alex Soto and Walel Watson. You can follow her on Twitter @IamGirlrilla.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Carmouche end her brief losing skid this weekend against Ashleigh Curry? Does she still have what it takes to potentially stand atop the women's division?