Liz Carmouche is no stranger to title fights, although both of her previous opportunities came at strange times during her career.
The first time the 35-year old military veteran fought for a world championship, she was just six fights into her career when Strikeforce thrust her into a showdown with Marloes Coenen.
Coenen had more than three times as much experience but Carmouche wasn’t going to back down from the challenge. Unfortunately in the end, she suffered a loss by fourth round triangle choke and her attempt to become champion was thwarted.
As much as she wanted to win the title, Carmouche is honest enough to admit that she probably had no business being champion back then.
“I think at that point, I didn’t know enough about myself and being a martial artist,” Carmouche said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I thought everything I was doing at that time was doing the best and not realizing how naïve I was.
“Now, I’m a different person. I’ve grown through the losses and all those lessons. To come out better on the other side and I’m actually prepared now to be a champion.”
In 2013, women were finally added to the UFC roster primarily because Ronda Rousey had become a force of nature during her run through Strikeforce, which included a series of first round finishes over high level competition like Miesha Tate and Julia Budd.
As the UFC prepared to introduce Rousey to a whole new level of stardom, she needed an opponent as her first challenge inside the Octagon. Carmouche got the call and while it wasn’t totally unexpected, she also didn’t exactly see it coming either.
Carmouche was a massive underdog heading into the fight but that didn’t stop her from taking Rousey’s back early in the opening round and nearly locking on a fight finishing rear naked choke.
Rousey survived and ultimately won the fight with her signature armbar but Carmouche knows she was potentially just seconds away from ruining everybody’s plans and taking home that UFC title.
As much as it meant to her to be involved in that inaugural UFC title fight for the women’s divisions, Carmouche isn’t haunted by that defeat but she’s be lying if she didn’t think about how much her life would have changed becoming champion at that time.
That’s why Carmouche appreciates the opportunity she has this weekend facing Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC women’s flyweight title.
“It will mean the world. This is something that I have worked towards my entire career and I came so close six years ago,” Carmouche said. “Everybody always asks ‘how often do you think about that?’. I don’t think about it that often but there’s certainly moments where I look at the people that are holding the belt at 135 and 125 through the years and thinking that could have been me. This could all be completely different, the faces who are holding those belts now, the whole way that women erupted in the UFC would be a whole different storyline had I won that belt.
“So everything I’ve worked towards has been to be a champion.”
Six years removed from that fight with Rousey, Carmouche believes she’s the best she’s ever been, which is why her confidence is high heading into the fight against Shevchenko.
The first time she fought for a world title, Carmouche was still figuring out what it meant to be a mixed martial artist. The second time she competed for gold, Carmouche might not have been ready to be champion.
Now as she awaits her showdown with Shevchenko on Saturday night, Carmouche is prepared for all of it.
“All the effort is to be the best version of myself,” Carmouche said. “That’s what I’m going out to show everybody that this is the best that I have and I deserve to have the belt.”