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Liz Carmouche: Finding true 135-pound women who are UFC caliber proving 'difficult'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Liz Carmouche was patiently waiting. Until her waiting wasn't so patient.

The popular UFC women's bantamweight fighter healed from a hand injury soon after her loss to Miesha Tate at UFC on FOX 11 in April 2014 and she wanted to get back into the Octagon as soon as possible. Things didn't quite work out that way.

Carmouche (9-5) grew irked and took to social media to press the UFC into giving her a fight as far back as October. The San Diego resident then began retweeting all her fans begging for the organization to book her. Carmouche used the same strategy more than three years ago when her rabid fan base supported her into getting the first-ever women's fight in the UFC against champion Ronda Rousey.

Carmouche, who is openly gay, lovingly calls her group of fans "Lizbos" and "Lizbros."

"One thing that I showed with the fight against Ronda, that's one of the means that I go to," Carmouche told MMAFighting.com. "When I'm not getting a response, I start going to social media asking the fans to start standing up for me and asking for it and going to arms for me."

Eventually, it worked. Carmouche will meet Lauren Murphy at UFC Fight Night: Mendes vs. Lamas on April 4 in Fairfax, Va. It's an important fight against a ranked opponent. Carmouche just wishes it had come three or four months ago.

"I've been just nipping at them just trying to get anything," Carmouche said. "If there were crumbs falling off the table of a fight, I was there waiting to catch it. I told them, 'You want one-week notice? Two-week notice? I'm your person. Please just let me know. I want to fight. If somebody is injured, I don't care who it is. I want to go back in.' So I'm super anxious for this fight."

Carmouche, 30, isn't 100 percent sure what the hold up was. Sean Shelby, the UFC's matchmaker for the lower weight classes and women's divisions, is well-respected and does a solid job. Carmouche theorizes that the women's bantamweight division doesn't have as many options as the UFC would have liked when it became the inaugural women's weight class in the organization in 2013. Carmouche is not the only 135-pound woman who has gone unbooked for months and taken to Twitter to spur on the UFC. Alexis Davis and Sarah Kaufman have done similar things.

"I think that they're still trying to build up the division," Carmouche said. "It's not as large as we would have hoped for and I really feel like there's a lot of 125ers in the 135-pound division. That makes it a little bit difficult."

Carmouche herself would be a natural 125-pounder. Tate, her last opponent, has also said that she might be better served at 125 pounds. But the UFC does not have a 125-pound women's weight class and probably won't for a long time. The only other female division the UFC has is at 115 pounds. And that would be too much weight to cut for women like Carmouche.

"Trying to find true 135-pounders in that division with the caliber that belongs in the UFC is a little bit difficult," Carmouche said. "As a result, they don't get as many fights booked because they really want to put on a fight that really showcases the skills of the women."

Murphy (8-1) definitely represents that for Carmouche. Both are good standing with strong grappling. Each woman is an excellent athlete. Murphy is coming off a split decision loss to Sara McMann in August, but many felt Murphy should have won that fight. She landed more strikes and arguably did more damage, though McMann controlled the proceedings on the ground.

Carmouche has lost two straight after beating Jessica Andrade following the loss to Rousey. She might be small for the weight class, but she has plenty of fight in her. By now, Carmouche was hoping to get back into the Octagon to get the bad taste of the Tate loss out of her mouth.

"There's a pace that was set in my mind for what I thought my career would be like and I hoped to maintain that," Carmouche said. "Once I experienced that loss to Miesha, I wanted to get back in the cage and show that it was just a mistake. I needed to go back in there and get right to the grind. To not do that, it's definitely kind of a bummer. I want to get in there and show everybody and get back on the fast track to the belt."

She can still do that, even if it's a little later than was the original plan.

"I need to win this one to show not only my fans and the UFC, but also myself that this is where I belong," Carmouche said. "And I have to showcase my skills now before I can start looking past anything else."