At 38, after years of pursuing a world championship, the moment arrived for Liz Carmouche at Bellator 278.
A fourth-round TKO saw Carmouche (17-7) claim the women’s flyweight title from Juliana Velasquez. The finish did, however, raise eyebrows, with Velasquez taking just a little bit of damage, seconds away from the end of the round.
For her part, Carmouche is on board with the stoppage.
“I think he [ref Mike Beltran] stepped in at the right time. I think if he’d let it continue, it could have been a broken orbital, it could have been her going unconscious,” the newly crowned champ told media outlets including Cageside Press following the fight. “I think that when he stepped in, it was the right thing to do to protect the fighter. She wasn’t doing anything to correctly advance her position safely, and she wasn’t doing anything to defend it.”
Carmouche added she’d prefer to be able to shake hands with her opponent, “rather than her go to the hospital and not remembering what happened. So I think [the ref] did the right thing.”
One thing she’s not all that interested in is a rematch. That, she said, it something she doesn’t want to see happen.
“I hope not. I get kind of bored with rematches. I like to see something different and kind of change it up, and I love an opportunity to let somebody else in the division work their way up— and to see what else I can show off in the cage.”
Having first competed for gold in the UFC in 2013, then again in 2019, Carmouche has had a while to think about what she wants her title reign to look like. Title defenses? Big names? A belt in a second weight class? Asked by Cageside Press about what she’d want, ideally, Carmouche had three things in mind.
“There are three things that would really be optimal. As much as I would like to see a 135 pound division [in Bellator], I think that one thing that’s unique that they don’t have out there is a 130 division,” Carmouche told us. “125, I feel like I’m cutting a little bit too low when I get to 125. 135 is a little too big. I think 130 would be a perfect division. And what that would really do is, it would start to cut off those 145’ers that are making enormous cuts to do 135 and blowing back up.”
It would be true 130 pounders who fight at the division as a result, added Carmouche. “So that’s one that I would really love to see. And of course to have two belts in two in two different divisions would be amazing.”
The third thing, she continued, would be to fight in Japan. “Whether that would be in Okinawa or mainland Japan, I would love to take a show out there and have an opportunity to go home. Because I haven’t been home since 2006.”
While Carmouche calls San Diego home these days, she grew up and went to school in Okinawa. So as much as she loves Hawaii, where Bellator 278 unfolded, “I’d really love to be able to go home and show my family, and bring a unique twist on being in Japan.”
“A lot of the fighters that have been there are Japanese fighters, and to have an American fighter that connects with it is so different and unique that it would really be great for Bellator, and an opportunity that I would really like to take advantage of,” she finished.
Watch the full Bellator 278 post-fight press conference with Liz Carmouche above.