We're a month out from the biggest women's mixed martial arts fight left on the 2012 calendar. Olympic wrestling silver medalist Sara McMann will meet Liz Carmouche at the Strikeforce event on Nov. 3 in Oklahoma City in a bout with major implications for the bantamweight divisional rankings.
But if you're expecting some Ronda Rousey-style trash talk between the two combatants between now and fight night, well, sorry to disappoint you. In their first interviews since the Strikeforce announced the bout, the two fighters expressed nothing but admiration for one another.
"This is the both the best opponent I could ever have and the worst opponent," Carmouche said in a one-on-one interview last month at her home gym, the San Diego Combat Academy. "We met at the last Invicta card and we hit it off. It's the best fight for me because I'm going to be fighting someone who's going to push me to my limits. And its the worst because she's such a cool chick and I have to beat her up."
In a Tuesday phone interview, McMann made it clear the feeling is mutual. "I can honestly say this is the first time in MMA I've been matched up with an opponent I could probably hang out with every day," the Revolution MMA fighter said. "She's a fun girl to hang out with."
But before the two get carried away in their praise, both realize they'll have a task to take care of in what's been rumored as a potential co-main event bout underneath Daniel Cormier's match with a TBD opponent.
"Here's the thing," McMann (6-0) said. "You can be friends before and after the fight, but it's still a competition. It's still two people going out and giving their best and someone will get their hand raised at the end of the fight."
For the unbeaten McMann, the event marks her Strikeforce debut, coming on the heels of her hotly contested Invicta 2 victory over veteran Shayna Baszler. Carmouche, meanwhile, has rebounded with consecutive wins via finish after back-to-back losses to Marloes Coenen and Sarah Kaufman and is looking to continue rebuilding her momentum at 135 pounds.
Carmouche says she's not worried about what, on paper, looks like the most obvious competitive advantage in the fight, which is McMann's world-class wrestling ability.
"If we go toe-to-toe, Sara has her wrestling to fall back on, but my fallback is everything" said Carmouche (7-2). "That's one thing that's always helped me as a fighter is that I haven't focused on one thing, like, ‘let's make you a jiu-jitsu fighter' or ‘let's make you a Muay Thai fighter.' I had nothing when I started, and we work on everything at the same time."
For her part, McMann says she that game plans don't mean much anyway.
"You can say you have a game plan, but really, that's just a fighter trying to convince themselves they have control," McMann said. "Once you get in there and the fight starts, it all goes out the window and whatever happens, happens. I think the fans should expect an all-action fight. Liz and I have similar styles, we're both high energy and we both like to push the pace."