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Bellator signs two-time UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche to multi-fight contract

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UFC on FOX 8 weigh-in photos

As soon as Bellator confirmed Liz Carmouche’s release from the UFC, promotion officials began working on a deal to bring the two-time title challenger over to the Viacom-owned property.

Less than one month after Carmouche’s unceremonious exit from the industry-leader, Bellator has signed the women’s MMA pioneer to a multi-fight deal, promotion president Scott Coker confirmed to MMA Fighting on Friday after an announcement during a media scrum in support of Bellator 238 on Saturday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Coker said the women’s flyweight division could host the next Bellator tournament and added Carmouche has already agreed to fight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, her longtime training partner, friend and flyweight champ. He didn’t identify a specific timeframe for her debut.

“When I look at that weight class, there’s a lot of stars,” Coker said. “A tournament might happen for that division.”

Carmouche will be in attendance for Saturday’s fight card at Blaisdell Arena, which features Macfarlane in a hometown headliner opposite Kate Jackson. The reigning 125-pound champ has welcomed the idea of a fight with Carmouche despite their relationship, though she’s also pitched the idea of Bellator opening a bantamweight division so they could train for different goals.

Carmouche’s Bellator deal comes four months after a disastrous outing in her second bid to win UFC gold. She took on champ Valentina Shevchenko at UFC Uruguary in a rematch of a fight she won on the regional circuit, and Shevchenko dominated her over five rounds to retain the belt. The fight was widely panned by critics and fans.

At 5-5, Carmouche didn’t appear to be in imminent danger of being released by the UFC. But earlier this month, she received a gut punch when the promotion sent her a pink slip while she was representing the company at several military-themed events for UFC on ESPN 7.

Carmouche, one-half of the UFC’s first female fight at UFC 157, brushed off the snub and thanked for the promotion for the opportunity. Now, a new one arises in the de-facto No. 2 MMA promotion. The move marks her second collaboration with Coker, who promoted her in the now-defunct Strikeforce in 2010-2011.