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Liz Carmouche: The military is ‘why I’ve been in this sport longer than most other females’

Liz Carmouche, who fights Kana Watanabe at Bellator 261, says her longevity in this sport was conditioned long before her first pro fight.

Bellator 261 star Liz Carmouche at UFC Fight Night event Photo by Alexandre Schneider /Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

Liz Carmouche. who competes at Bellator 261, has been competing at a high level for more than a decade, and she credits her time in the military for her 24/7 attitude to fighting.

Carmouche spent five years in the Marine Corps. as an aviation electrician before becoming a professional mixed martial artist. The three-time world championship challenger also did three tours of duty in the Middle East. Ahead of her fight with Kana Watanabe at Bellator 261 — taking place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. on Fri., June 25 — “Girl-Rilla” touched on how military life prepared her for MMA.

“I think one of the biggest things is the discipline I learned in the Marine Corps,” Carmouche told “For you to succeed and the discipline instilled in you carries over for your lifestyle in the military. That’s something I certainly carried over to the MMA lifestyle and I think it’s why I’ve been in this sport longer than most other females. It’s because I have the discipline to treat this as a lifestyle. Every day isn’t just, ‘Oh I’m in fight camp for this moment and now I’m going to be an MMA fighter and I’ll be a trashy person after that.’ It’s my lifestyle all year round so I can take short-notice fights like this. That’s a big one. And also the adversity I’ve faced in the military has also helped me face adversity in MMA career.”

Carmouche and former Bellator Women’s Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane are close-knit training partners. In fact, Macfarlane often refers to Carmouche as her mentor. That makes it all the more puzzling that Carmouche and Macfarlane are so eager to fight each other.

“We constantly have been in tournaments side-by-side competing, knowing we’d probably meet up in the finals. Our coach would tell us not to participate against each other in the finals. Behind their backs, that would push us harder,” she explained. “We’ve come up together. I was in the UFC, she was in Bellator dominating and holding the championship there... It pushed us to think under this type of pressure, how would we perform against each other?”

Carmouche, 37, was unceremoniously released by the UFC despite signing a new contract following her failed UFC Women’s Flyweight title fight against Valentina Shevchenko in 2019. Whatsmore, Carmouche was completing UFC fight week duties when was informed of her release. On the flip-side, Carmouche has nothing but positive things to say about her time with Bellator.

“I’m loving Bellator so far. It’s a hard comparison because I entered Bellator during COVID,” she said. “But I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with everything involved in Bellator. From going out to Hawaii and signing with them, to them being willing to book me as many fights as I can possibly handle. Also when people fall out of fights, they make sure that I’m guaranteed a fight. I can't say that's ever been done for me in the past."

Carmouche (15-7) vs. Watanabe (10-0-1) is expected to be a number one contender’s fight for the Bellator Women’s Flyweight championship; however, this has not been confirmed by the promotion. Carmouche sits at no. 2 in the division and no. 5 on the women’s pound-for-pound list. Watanabe ranks third at flyweight and no. 9 on the pound-for-pound hierarchy.

Bellator 261 takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. on Fri., June 25 on Showtime. The card is headlined by an interim Bellator Heavyweight championship fight between ranked contenders Timothy Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky.

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