Liz Carmouche gets a rare opportunity on Saturday night when she battles Valentina Shevchenko for Shevchenko’s flyweight title in the main event of UFC Uruguay.
Carmouche (13-6) made MMA history when she was in the UFC’s first ever female fight when she headlined UFC 157 back in February 2013. Early on, Carmouche had Ronda Rousey in a bit of trouble, locking her in a standing rear-naked choke/face crank. But the UFC Hall of Famer escaped and won the thrilling affair late in the first round.
Realizing she was too small to compete at 135 pounds, Carmouche moved down to flyweight at the end of 2017. Moving down proved to be the right decision, as Carmouche has gone 2-1 to earn a crack at Shevchenko.
Days before her second shot at glory, Carmouche sat down with Sporting News to discuss her fight with Shevchenko in September 2010, if she thought she’d ever get to this point and what valuable experiences she took from taking on Rousey.
(Editor’s note: This interview was edited for clarity.)
Sporting News: How much do you remember from the first fight against Shevchenko?
Liz Carmouche: Not much because I was still so green. The biggest thing I took from the fight was that I was actually supposed to fight her sister and that’s who I signed the contract for. The organization was super shady and pulled one over on me when I arrived at the fight. I was able to pull off a win by an upkick and cutting her a bit. The doctor had to stop it because of the excessive blood loss.
SN: Since the fight took place so long ago, were you able to find any highlights to study from?
LC: Not at all. The organization was super shady. The fight wasn’t very well lit as it took place outside in a dark area on a reservation without any cell phone reception. I had friends and family at the fight as I liked having one of them to record my fights so I can have tape and study. I haven’t been able to find anything.
I showed up to the venue and Valentina was on the poster. After talking with the promoter, I was promised to pay her an extra couple hundred bucks and a daily per diem which they didn’t do.
SN: Looking back, did you ever think you’d be at this point in your career coming out of that fight?
LC: Not at all. Are you kidding me? At that point, I was still going to college full-time and dragging around my textbooks every time I had to go away for a fight. I was taking last-minute phone calls for matches, training, and working. I was doing all of that and not even sure if fighting was something that had a future for me. It really didn’t look like women were making a career out of it. So, I certainly didn’t know if that was something I could do. Fast forward to nine years later and where I am at, I could never have anticipated this. Ever.
I had zero interest in going to college. I used my GI Bill to help pay for training. I hated doing group projects or deal with people in the class who aren’t paying attention. That made me go insane. I was looking for any way out. My sanity was fighting. I looked forward to every day because of fighting. I had to keep my grades up or lose my GI Bill because it was paying for everything to help me train.
SN: Do you take anything from the Rousey fight that you could bring into Saturday?
LC: I took a lot from that Ronda fight. What that taught me was one – just how to manage my time. One of the things I had to do was that I was told by the UFC PR team that they need a minimum of two hours every day just to do interviews. I’m like, ‘That’s a lot of talking. Two hours every day. Are you kidding me?’ I figured out with those two hours how to budget my time. At night, I had to work and I was still going to school and doing all this stuff. I learned how to manage my time efficiently.
The other thing I learned is the adversity that I can face under everything I went through with the buildup to that fight. I knew I wanted that fight. I knew I could win that fight. I had no doubts about that in my mind. I wasn’t sure if I had a future in my fight career. Even though I lost that fight, I knew that there was plenty I could take away from the experience. I knew the work ethic I needed to put in to be that much better to learn from the lessons that were taught to me that day and how to take away and learn and grow as a fighter.
What I also took away was that I wasn’t even fighting in the correct weight class. When she rehydrated, she was enormous compared to me. I was still 135 when I walked into the Octagon. I’m genuinely a flyweight. Ronda looked like she was 155. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, here we go again. I’m at another disadvantage.’
I’ve learned so much and grown from that fight. For me to focus on that fight would be taking a step backward and I’m only going forward.
SN: The fight ends and contemplating went wrong, did you think getting a title shot was possible since the company hadn’t implemented any more weight classes at that time?
LC: After the Ronda fight, I wasn’t sure what the UFC held for me. I think coming out of that fight, I didn’t know if losing that fight meant that I could get cut because I knew the rumors at the time was how easily fighters could get cut from the UFC. I didn’t know what that meant for me and also if I was kept on, how long it would take to get back into title contention. I certainly didn’t think at the time it would be at flyweight. I thought it would have to happen at bantamweight again or possibly have to go up a division.
SN: The consensus among MMA pundits is that Valentina is the second-best female fighter in the world behind Amanda Nunes. How do you view Valentina as a fighter?
LC: As the person standing in the way of my belt because that’s all I see.
Written By Steven Muehlhausen