PFL 4: Kana Watanabe Is First Fighter Liz Carmouche Has Wanted to Rematch

Liz Carmouche, Bellator 294 following win over DeAnna Bennett
Liz Carmouche, Bellator 294 Credit: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

Bellator women’s flyweight champ and PFL contender Liz Carmouche is no stranger to rematches.

Alexis Davis. Juliana Velasquez. DeAnna Bennett. Velasquez again. And let’s not forget her pair of fights with UFC star and former champ Valentina Shevchenko. Yet despite that multitude of second (and third) encounters, the first female fighter to have set foot in the UFC octagon is not a fan of running it back. At least until now.

Carmouche (21-7) is set to face Kana Watanabe for the second time at PFL 4 on Thursday, and this time, it’s a rematch she’s looking forward to, she told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview ahead of the fight.

“Normally no, not at all,” explained Carmouche when asked whether she preferred getting a second go at opponents. “I’m definitely one of those people where it’s kind of like, it happened, whether it’s a win or a loss let’s just move on. Let’s get some new blood in there, new experiences. But I really like Kana as a martial artist, and I see how much she’s grown since the last time I faced her. She’s the first person I actually wanted to rematch.”

That’s because, beyond just the growth, Carmouche also likes Kana Watanabe as a person. And as for how Watanabe has developed as a fighter since the pair’s 2021 meeting, the growth come in more than one area, in the Bellator champ’s estimation.

“One thing that I really respect about Kana is her pursuit of evolution as well. She’s been switching stances, she’s been being more active with embracing her judo and utilizing that successfully. Getting finishes on the ground, controlling people on the ground, and also engaging in striking,” observed Carmouche. “She’s done nothing but evolve since the last time I faced her, which makes it really exciting, not knowing what to expect when I face her.”

Fight fans could be in for some extra excitement come Thursday in Uncasville, CT, as Carmouche will have extra motivation to find a finish. She came away with a decision win over Juliana Velasquez to open the season, which leaves her with just three points. Another decision may or may not be enough to make the post-season, depending on how some of the other flyweights perform.

“I was looking for the finish from the get-go when I fought Velasquez. Every single round I was chasing a finish, and I wasn’t able to achieve it. That definitely in my mind served as a handicap.”

“Leading in [to PFL 4] with a decision, which I did not expect at all, definitely pushes a lot more of my hand to get a finish, but also that doesn’t guarantee my spot in the playoffs,” added Carmouche. “So I’ll be watching the other females in anticipation of their performance and what that means for me.”

As noted, Carmouche remains the Bellator MMA women’s flyweight champ, though when or if she’ll defend that title again remains to be seen. Given her choice, she absolutely would however- and she’d also jump up a weight class for another PFL season.

“It would be awesome to defend the belt in the off-season,” suggested Carmouche, who noted that the belief was initially that Bellator would slowly be merged with the PFL, following the latter’s acquisition of Bellator MMA last year. “I’m not sure even if the next year, if there’ll be a continuation of Bellator to have that opportunity,” she continued, “but if there is I’d certainly like to have the chance to be able to defend the belt.”

And, she added, join a potential 135lb division in the PFL. On that front, however, there have been “no talks yet” with the promotion. “I’m hoping with each representation of myself in PFL I’ll have the opportunity to talk more, and hopefully be in their ear about trying to add the 135lb division,” Carmouche finished.

Liz Carmouche faces Kana Watanabe for the second time at the 2024 PFL 4 card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT on Thursday, June 13.