Liz Carmouche has fought some of the very best champions the sport has ever seen. Yet to gain that label herself, it isn’t too late for “Girlrilla” who challenges Bellator Flyweight titlist, Juliana Velasquez, at Bellator 278 on April 22, 2022, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The title opportunity will act as the fourth in Carmouche’s 23-fight career — her second at Flyweight. Competing professionally since Mar. 2010, the now 38-years-old Lafayette, Louisiana native can picture a perfect path to the end of her career.
“One, having that title and holding it for Bellator would mean the world,” Carmouche told MMAMania.com. “I really do connect so much with Bellator and the organization and all the staff. Doing it in a place like Hawaii that feels like a second home would mean even more. But also, it just means so much because all the work and sacrifice, not just of myself but my family side by side with me. Bringing that home to them and bringing that back to San Diego is something when Ilima [Macfarlane] lost the belt, I said I was gonna go get it and bring it back to San Diego and I meant that.
“Having the belt and closing out with say four more wins or six more wins would be the best way to end the career for me,” she concluded. “Knowing not only did I get the title but held it securely until I decided to end my career with it.”
Since exiting Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for Bellator in late 2019, Carmouche has looked better than ever with three exceptional performances. Scoring a rear-naked choke submission win against DeAnna Bennett in her promotional debut, it was the first finish for the veteran dating back to her July 2013 technical knockout against then-short notice UFC debutant, Jessica Andrade.
Carmouche followed up the win by spoiling the arrival of Invicta Fighting Championship’s champion and divisional legend, Vanessa Porto ... but she wasn’t done there.
Top Flyweight prospect and unbeaten Judoka, Kana Watanabe was then poised to break into the elite of the weight class when matched with Carmouche. Of course, the former U.S. marine had other plans, handing Watanabe her first career defeat in a mere 35 seconds via technical knockout.
“I think it’s a few different things,” Carmouche said of her late-career success. “It’s one, being with an organization that I connect with so much like Bellator. When you have an organization that is really behind you and they’re really supporting you and trying to do their best by you, you want to do your best by them. So you give everything that you have. They put on so much less pressure to do anything more than just go out there and put on your best training camp. That makes it so easy.
“Then also, with the understanding with age, I understand how important recovery is,” she continued. “Before, I never set a precedent on myself, I wasn’t as selfish as I needed to be for fights. Thankfully, I have my wife there who understands that you do need to be selfish and she does everything possible to make that happen. Having somebody who supports you like that makes it so much easier. That’s really allowed me to put the focus I need to on these days in my career and just keep improving and growing.”
Carmouche not only intends to make her dreams a reality when facing Velasquez but seeks redemption for her friend and training partner, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, who Velasquez defeated to become champion. With plenty of time to dissect and prepare for another undefeated opponent, Carmouche draws similarities to her last time out.
“I kind of look at it the same way I did Kana,” Carmouche said. “She was somebody who’s going out there, had a great background, undefeated at that time, but just like Kana had never faced somebody like me and didn’t know how to prepare for someone coming in like that. I don’t think that Juliana is either. I’m going in there and I’ve been studying her because she fought Ilima and in anticipation of that fight, I studied tape on her and tried to mimic her as much as possible and found all of her flaws and weaknesses then and certainly learned from the mistakes Ilima made and the mistakes that Juliana’s made. I feel going into this fight, I’m more prepared than any opponent she’s faced and I certainly have a lot more experience and understanding in what it takes to get that belt.”
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