Liz Carmouche has been a trailblazer in her short-but-eventful mixed martial arts career. Carmouche was the first openly lesbian fighter to compete on a major MMA stage and was part of the first women's fight in UFC history.
The San Diego-based fighter will add another first to her resume on July 27 at FOX 8 in Seattle. Carmouche will meet former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Miesha Tate on the main card at Key Arena in what will go down as the first UFC women's fight on network television.
The way Carmouche sees it, the bout's been a long time in the making. Carmouche fought and won a reserve bout in the 2010 Strikeforce title tournament, which Tate won.
"It's a matchup I feel like has been a long time in the making," Carmouche said on a recent edition of The MMA Hour. "I started off fighting in Strikeforce in the tournament that she ultimately won, so it seems like our paths have been crossing our entire careers, so it seems like this is finally our day."
It's been a whirlwind year for Carmouche, who has gone from relative unknown to headlining UFC 157, where she nearly finished UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey before Rousey rallied and finished her in a manic 4:49 of action. Although the bout brought with it the pressures of an unprecedented wave of publicity, Carmouche barely took any time off before getting back into the gym at the San Diego Combat Academy.
"I took about a week off strictly because I had my family in town and I wanted to spend time with them, but other than that it was life as usual, working and training full time. If anything I wanted to keep my pace and keep things going with how things were."
Part of that motivation to get right back into the gym has been a simple matter of knowing how close she came to unseating the biggest star in women's MMA.
"I'm still not getting over it," Carmouche said." I'm my hardest critic, I expect the best of myself, I'm a perfectionist. So it's one of those things, unless I have a chance to reclaim it, I won't be happy with myself."
Gay and lesbian athletes have been a popular topic in 2013. While Carmouche had her turn in the spotlight leading up to the Rousey fight, more recently, NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first person in the four major North American team sports to come out while still an active player. Carmouche was cheered by the development.
"Everything I've seen is a lot of positive feedback, and for that I'm grateful," she said. "We're in a position now where it's something we can do, where in the past people were ridiculed. It's great that now people can be accepted and the LGBT community can open up and share with the people where they come from.
"Maybe the four major sports is probably the first step in coming out," Carmouche later added, "But I think in MMA, one gym at a time, one athlete at a time there's going to be some changes."
In the meantime, Carmouche continues to prepare for her bout with Tate, who is looking to rebound for her loss to Cat Zingano in April.
"She's a really well-rounded fighter," Carmouche said of Tate. "I respect her a lot as an athlete. I think our styles are going to matchup really well. It's going to be back and forth, I think it's going to be who has the most heart, who puts the most work in. That's whats ultimately going to decide it."