Liz Carmouche


“There is nothing in this life that can hold you back. There is no such thing as can’t.” - Liz Carmouche, MMA Fighter, UFC



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Liz Carmouche is a former United States Marine and a current MMA fighter in the UFC, ranked the #8 bantamweight women fighter in the world. She tells the hosts about growing up in Okinawa, her drive to continue to push herself in fighting and how she is championing the idea for the UFC to add the flyweight division to women's mixed martial arts.


Dustin: The beginning of your MMA career, can you talk a little bit about how you got into Mixed Martial Arts and maybe a little bit about what your first fight was like?

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, absolutely. So I got into MMA just in the Marine Corps doing the basic workouts, I was lifting, I was running, and I was absolutely bored out of my mind. I was looking for something that was really gonna push me and engage me not just physically but mentally, and challenge me. A few people suggested checking out MMA. Honestly I saw a fight on television and thought it was the most horrific, disgusting thing I'd ever seen. It was a super gory fight. I couldn't believe that people thought this was entertainment.

Dustin: Do you remember what fight it was?

Liz Carmouche: No, and I've tried to remember since then just because it was so long ago, I don't know who it was. It was just that somebody got cut open and the fight continued, because it was on the top of the head.

Dustin: Yeah.

Liz Carmouche: But for me, like, "This person's bleeding all over the place, and that's not ..." Yeah, and once I started getting into the workouts I was like, "Oh wow, this is pretty awesome." The first day I went into sparring, broke my nose and loved it ever since. So go figure, right? Like now I'm all bloody all over the place and I was completely okay. My first fight, I fought against a woman that, she weighed in at 165 and I weighed in at ...

Dustin: Wow.

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, it was supposed to be 135, and my coach came out and he's like, "Hey, unfortunately we're not able to find an opponent at that weight, so you're gonna need to go up in weight." I was like, "Up? I don't even know that means and it's a few days away." So I weighed in with jeans, a chain [inaudible 00:03:17] on, eating food, fully clothed, shoes at 142. She weighed in sucked up at 165 so she's probably like maybe 175, day of I was still 142. But I was like, "Hey, I want to fight. That's all I care about. I don't care who the person is, what day it is, where we're at. I just want to fight, that's the most important thing to me." Ended up succeeding. I won in the second round via arm bar and came out of it and I just knew that that's what I want to do. It didn't matter who they placed in front of me, that I was gonna do it. I just wanted to fight and that challenge was the most accepting and fulfilling thing for me.

Dustin: Where do you think you got ... It sounds like you're a very bold and really, you just don't sound like you get too nervous doing this. Where do you think you got that kind of drive from?

Liz Carmouche: You know, I think it just comes from my family. I mean, it's even something where they said as a child I was like that so they're not quite sure, but I was always just told that there's nothing in life that can hold you back, there's no such thing as "can't," and that mentality has led everything that I do and my success for everything. Because the only person that can tell me I can't do something in life is myself, that I'm capable of anything, and I really do believe that.

Dustin: Wow, that's awesome. Let's go even farther back. You were born in Louisiana but you grew up in Okinawa. What was that like?

Liz Carmouche: Well, that's home, right? I was there for 17 years and everything I know, the culture that I grew up in, everything that I recognize as being like holidays and traditions and stuff, it's all the Okinawan culture. The American culture is still something that I've adapted to and I'm getting to know all the different holidays, different routines, driving on the other side of the road. All the different customs and things like, it's not acceptable to pick up your bowl and drink up all the last liquids out of it, like in the States that's not something you do at a public restaurant. So there's just little things like words that I only knew in Japanese that I had to learn in English and didn't even know. The island lifestyle's much more laid-back and a different pace and here it's just not the same, but it's been fun because through the military I was able to see all different cultures and travel to different states and different places that I may not have been able to do, had it not been for that.

Jeff: And you said that you picked up fighting pretty much after you left the Marines, so you weren't interested in martial arts either as a kid in Okinawa or while you were in the Marines?

Liz Carmouche: I was in both, yeah. I did some karate as a child, but I had the attention span of a gnat, and one day I wanted to do karate, the next day I wanted to be a stunt double, the next day a surgeon, and soccer and football and everything. So I did dabble in taekwondo and kenpo and Okinawan karate and aikido. I was all over the place, but it's be for a month at a time and then something shiny would distract me and I'd decide to go play tackle football or something. So as a child, I didn't understand the opportunities that I had available for me, and I just wanted to try everything out and everything just seemed interesting so I just went with that. And in the Marine Corps, my education for being an electrician on helicopters, they just said they invested so much it wasn't worth the risk, so I wasn't allowed to do MMA.

Jeff: Gotcha. So how did you get into being an electrician in the Marine Corps?

Liz Carmouche: That was just honestly by chance. If you ever hear anybody about the military, they always say that their recruiters set you up and that's exactly what happened. I went in saying, "Hey, I'm gonna take the test, I want to join the Marine Corps." He's like, "Hey, well you have a really high score, you can do whatever MOS you want to. You tell me the job and you got it." So I list off all these different MOSs and like, "Hey, unfortunately at this time women can't do those so you can't do any of those."

Dustin: Boo.

Liz Carmouche: "Okay well, I don't really see what's left that I want to do then. What can I do as a woman?" And he's like, "Oh well, you know, like based on what you want to do, you want to travel the world, you want to constantly be, your job is a workout, doing things, in constant motion, never feet on the ground. You should be a technician on helicopters." Like, "I don't want that means. That sounds cool, I'm in. But hey, just whatever you do, please nothing with electricity. I am a klutz when it comes to electricity and it just doesn't work well for me." And of course like every recruiter does, that's exactly what I got was I was electrician on helicopters and was stuck with that for five years.

Jeff: Wow. Did you learn to fly while you were working on them as well?

Liz Carmouche: No, unfortunately the only people that have that availability are officers in the Marine Corps.

Jeff: Oh, okay.

Dustin: Did you enjoy being a helicopter electrician when you were doing it?

Liz Carmouche: Absolutely not. I loved being a Marine, I hated being an electrician. I mean, the best way that I could test out, "Oh, is this working?" Is I just got electrocuted, and I was totally cool with it, it was fine, but that's more of my way of figuring things out.

Jeff: Yeah, cool.

Dustin: So we talked a little bit about weight classes before on your first fight, but from what I hear, you currently fight at 135, correct?

Liz Carmouche: That's correct.

Dustin: But from what I hear, you would be more comfortable at possibly 125?

Liz Carmouche: Oh yeah, definitely.

Dustin: And I hear you're trying to lobby for UFC having a flyweight class.

Liz Carmouche: I am.

Dustin: Can you talk about that a little bit?

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, so I naturally walk around so close to my fight weight. I'm one of the few fighters at Fight Week that I see eating every single meal, enjoying myself, and not struggling or suffering while I watch all these other fighters and they're looking at me like, "Wait, how are you able to eat that? What are you doing? All these meals and ..." Just because I sit low. I'm naturally a 125er, but when it came to, if I could fight the best people in the world and go up a weight class, or just kinda dominate it in a lower one, I wanted to go with the best. If that meant going up in a weight class, it was worth it to me to be in the UFC and compete against the top 10, top 20 in the world.

Dustin: The thing that doesn't make sense to me is that, there's a 115 class, right? And a 135, but they just don't have one in the middle yet?

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, and I do get it, because a lot of the 135ers ... When they first opened up the 135 division, most of the 135ers who are in there, we were all on the same [inaudible 00:09:20]. It was, "You want to be part of the best thing in the world, you're gonna compete at 135," so some of them moved up from 125 to 135. Some 145ers moved down to 135, so if they opened up the 125 division I don't think there'd be very many women in the 135 division, so instead they dropped it one more weight class just to ensure that they could fill up both those weight classes.

Dustin: And you don't think you could make 115, or you don't want to go through that weight cut?

Liz Carmouche: No, it's something my coach and I talked about and we do think that it would be possible. I just don't think that I'd be able to perform at that level. I could make the weight, but if it's at the cost of not getting the best performance that I can, then it's not really worth it.

Dustin: That's good, because nobody wants to see like ... That's the thing. I think it takes away from the fans a little bit when you have all these fighters cutting so much weight and then they can't perform at their peak and you don't get the fights that you should be getting when you're watching.

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, exactly. I would never want to be one of those fighters. I think at 125, I could put on a spectacular performance ...

Dustin: I think at 125 you would just completely dominate.

Jeff: Yeah, you would kill everybody, I think.

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, and I think so too, and at 135 I'm one of the smallest women in that weight class because I'm not a 135er. None of them walk around at 135 a month before their fight. I'm the only person that does that.

Dustin: Yeah, that's intense. That's really intense. So do you have any upcoming fights in the UFC? Do you have any fights lined up in general?

Liz Carmouche: No, unfortunately I'm waiting. There's been some talk about trying to set something up and it's always just difficult just trying to line it up. I mean there's been a few opportunities, I mentioned I'm going like Brazil, going to Australia or something, and one way or another just wasn't able to work out.

Dustin: But you did get to fight in New York, which was amazing. How cool was that for you?

Liz Carmouche: It was awesome. My mom's side of the family is all from New York. She was born and raised in New York. So I was able to touch base with them, I haven't seen them since I was a child. Able to provide them with the tickets, "Come check out my fight," and then make history. I mean, my mom always, growing up would talk about ... Okay, once I started actually fighting and she's like, "You know what? You haven't made it yet until you fight in Madison Square Garden, New York. That's the shining moment, that's when I'll be my proudest is when you finally fight there." So it happened, I was the first fighter of the night. I was like, "Yes! I finally made my mother proud. I'm fighting in MSG. It's finally happened."

Jeff: That's such a huge stage, and you've been part of a couple firsts. The first fights at MSG and then also, the first women's Bantamweight championship that you fought against Ronda Rousey. You seem like someone who's really focused on the fight and to go into that ring and get the job done. Is it tough when you're part of something that's even bigger than that, like the press that was around when you fought Ronda or the press that was around when the whole MSG circus was happening? Is it tough to return your focus?

Liz Carmouche: With the Ronda one, absolutely. It was really difficult. I was just starting to pick up more responsibility at work and trying to figure out how to do that, because I just finished my degree. I got my Associate's, I was trying to get back into the work lifestyle, transitioning from being a civilian, transitioning into having a full-time job and training and ... Yeah, absolutely. At first that media, it was really difficult, just because I'm not always the most outgoing person. If I get to connect and know the person, yeah, I can answer any question you want, we can build a rapport. But sometimes with the media, this is completely disconnected and they're just kind of like looking down at that paper, I'm like, "Ugh. I'm so socially awkward, I don't know how to do this. This is very draining for me." So definitely some aspects I was still learning how to do media. When I was in strike force, we didn't really do a media week. It was just a few interviews here and there, nothing intense, and that Ronda fight was a whole different level. Whole different level.

Dustin: It was a circus.

Liz Carmouche: Trying to ... Yeah, absolutely. But at the same time, that prepared me for any other fight I have in my fight career. If the media even comes close, even if it's the same level, I know how to juggle now. I know how to prepare for that. So at MSG, that was a breeze. That was nothing compared to the Ronda fight, and the lack of experience going into it.

Dustin: Awesome. Yeah, so I imagine that helped a lot, getting into that Ronda fight and going through all that media where it just kinda raised the bar of tolerance for dealing with that kind of situation. But yeah, is there anybody that you would like to fight? Is there anybody that, if you had a chance, you could call out? Or maybe somebody that you'd like to test your skills against?

Liz Carmouche: You know, I'm just happy to fight. And of course, the person I'm always gunning for is whoever has the belt, so my eyes are always gonna be heading in that direction. That is my ultimate fight, because I want to take it from them. So anybody in the interim, anybody in between, anybody that sets a path to get there, I don't care who it is, as long as it gets me in the direction of the defender.

Dustin: That's pretty awesome. I feel like a little bit ... I mean, do you feel like the UFC kinda rewards fighters a little bit more for like calling people out and being a little bit, like having that ... Almost like a fake attitude for wanting to fight the next person?

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, I absolutely do. Honestly it makes sense for me, because I can be ... I think one of the drawbacks is that I'm a humble person, I'm quiet, I'm socially awkward, so I'm not gonna be that person. I think that your actions should speak for you so if I go out there and I'm doing all that talking dirt and just stirring the pot and then I go in there and I make a mistake ... A simple mistake, I could slip on sweat, and I lose the fight because of that mistake, then I deserve any repercussions that come and anything that anybody has to say. So I'm not that type of person, I'd rather let my actions speak for me.
So if I want to get in there and I want to destroy you and break your face, I'm gonna go in there and I'm gonna let my fighting show that, rather than say it and then make a mistake and have a bad weight cut or anything, because that to me is just karma coming back to you that you deserve, but it builds up. People want to see it, so when you do all that talking and all that buildup and you make it seem like there's all this animosity and all these things, they want to see you fall or they want to see you succeed, so it makes everybody tune in and it builds all that up, so I absolutely get it and it makes sense why they reward those actions.

Dustin: Does it make you want to be more like that type of person? Have you taken action to maybe become more of a person that is more socially outward to calling people out and maybe making more of a show vocally?

Liz Carmouche: Yeah, it's definitely something that I've tried to do and do things a little bit differently. I mean, I wasn't a big person on social media, it's just not something that I feel comfortable on and broadcasting my life ... Like if I go on and I do something awesome, I'm usually the person who has locked up my phone and totally forgotten that it's even there. I'm like, "Oh yeah, I just went skydiving off this rare peak and I totally forgot to take a picture. Woops." I don't post anything. That's always me, I'm just lost in the moment enjoying it so I never stop to do that, so it's definitely a change I've tried to make lately just to be more of an advocate on social media because that does speak to people and it does make them have that connection with you, but as far as actually saying anything negative towards my opponents, no, because at the end of the day we're both professionals and martial artists, so even if I have any animosity towards them, I want to be respectful because that's just the way I am.

Dustin: It sounds almost like a samurai mentality. How much do you think that comes from growing up in Japan, and growing up in the Japanese culture?

Liz Carmouche: It 100% has to do with growing up in Okinawa, absolutely. Yeah, I mean it's so respectful of everybody else and considerate towards them, and that's definitely where it comes from. I mean, when I step into the cage I bow before I go in. I give respect to my opponent before we fight and after, no matter how dirty, no matter how much I dislike them. We both get in there and we put on a performance and we performed against each other in the best possible way that we can so I'm gonna respect that.

Dustin: That's awesome. From what I've heard, you like coming in as the underdog. Do you think that's part of it? Maybe the limelight's off of you a little bit?

Liz Carmouche: I don't even think it's that. I think it's more on the idea that you want a comeback, that comeback that you have when you are on the bottom and you're losing and then you have this big victory. When you're the underdog, that's pretty much what it is every single time. If there's no expectation that's placed on you, you're not expected to win, you go in there and you give even 80% and you win, it looks amazing because nobody expected you to come out on top. They all expected you to lose, so for you to succeed with that, it just looks that much better. And I always like being the surprise and I like when people boo against me because it fuels me and it makes me fight that much harder.

Jeff: Nice.

Dustin: Is that what really fuels you as far as like, going out there and fighting? I can definitely agree with you on the level of like, success is so much sweeter when the universe is against you. Do you feel that that's what fuels you to each next fight to keep on fighting the way you do, keep on grinding it out?

Liz Carmouche: No, I think just the desire to be the best I can be is what really fuels me and drives me for each fight, but when I go out there and I've heard the crowd be ... All of the support of my opponent, it just makes me want to hurt them that much more, so it makes me more violent, let's just put it that way. As opposed to being a little bit more respectful, I'm gonna throw a few more sharp elbows than I normally would to my opponent just so the crowd knows that they're not gonna succeed.

Jeff: Nice. We talked a little bit about when you first stepped into a gym after you were thinking about maybe pursuing this and you broke your nose and you loved it ever since. You've been fighting for a while now. Has your training and the way you train, has that changed from day one to the way you do it now?

Liz Carmouche: Absolutely, for a lot of different reasons. When I first came in here, I was going to school full-time in the morning and then I spent my afternoons and evenings training, all night. And I didn't see that raining for six hours in a row without taking any breaks, that's just not the healthiest way to do it. I wasn't retaining muscle. My endurance was amazing, don't get me wrong. That was fantastic, but strength-wise and technique-wise, sometimes you need to take that moment to step back and write notes and assess everything you're doing to improve, and I wasn't taking those opportunities. I wasn't taking those rest days and that definitely wears down on you.
Also, you just start to learn different ways that ... I mean, you can train for eight hours in a day, but if you can do the same thing training for two hours and get the same amount of it, it makes more sense to train smarter. So I definitely train differently than I used to. Before I never touched weights. My first year, two years fighting, and then I started to realize just how important just doing basic strengthening and conditioning was, and how much it changed my body. I look back at pictures from when I first started fighting, the pictures now, and it looks like two different people and the only difference being is just, I was like, "Oh yeah, it turns out that lifting weights, not only is it fun but it's good for me."

Dustin: Yeah, I'm finding that now in being a little bit later ... Now that I'm in 30s, trying to do jiu jitsu and it's like, my lanky skinny body can't hold up to all this punishment. It's a little bit nicer to have like a layer of armor muscle over that to just kinda hold up, and I can't imagine the amount of punishment that you take as far as like, how heavy your training is. How often do you train now?

Liz Carmouche: Six days a week.

Dustin: Wow. How many times a day?

Liz Carmouche: Usually two to three times a day. I'll go for a few hours in the morning, and then additional in the afternoon, sometimes mixed in there another one in the evening, just depending on who's available for training. If we have people come in that I can work with, then I'll add in some extra sessions.

Dustin: So we also heard that you're a gamer, but with all this training, how do you find time?

Liz Carmouche: No, it's not easy at all. But thankfully, I don't sleep a lot and I'm a night owl so I think that's really what's able to come into it.

Jeff: Nice. Also I think I heard this correctly, you have your own gym now, right?

Liz Carmouche: I do, yeah.

Jeff: That's excellent.

Liz Carmouche: The gym that I was actually working with, the San Diego Combat Academy, Bill was looking to retire and he gave me an opportunity to take over the business, and I jumped on it, so now we changed the school into 10th Planet San Diego. For a lot of different reasons. Because you have to go with the trends, and right now jiu jitsu's super popular. That program has just blown up at our school and it's just doing so well, so we've rolled more into jiu jitsu school but we definitely still have everything else.

Dustin: So do you train with Eddie Bravo as well?

Liz Carmouche: I have trained with Eddie. I've gone up, he's in Hollywood so it's a little bit more difficult to get up there. Right now I train with two of his black belts, Richie Martinez and Giovanni Martinez.

Dustin: Oh, those guys are animals, and they've all competed in EBI as well as you. How cool was that? How would you compare that with competing in the UFC to competing for the Eddie Bravo International?

Liz Carmouche: You know, it's funny. It's on two different spectrums for me, because for some reason, my nerves go through the roof when it comes to competing in jiu jitsu. Whether it be basic NAGA or at EBI, it doesn't matter. My nerves are on edge. I go into a fight? Nothing, I'm fine. I go into that cage and that's my home and that's where I belong, and I think because with jiu jitsu it's such a foreign territory. At least in MMA, like I know, "Oh okay, [inaudible 00:23:05] submission, and if I totally brain fart and I forgot the technique and I know how to go to this, I'll just punch and kick my way out of it." In jiu jitsu, if I go in there and I completely brain dump and forget everything, you're not allowed to slam, you're not allowed to punch them. You're just stuck and you're just sitting there hoping that at some point your brain kicks in and you remember. So I think because of that, my nerves just go through the roof. And also because it's not a cage, and I'm so used to being in a cage. It's a completely different environment. I'm not bouncing off anything. There's no real way to stop anything. So it is a completely different playing ground for me.

Dustin: Yeah, I guess it's just unfamiliar. It's new, that makes sense. How would you feel about competing with the new style, with the combat jiu jitsu?

Liz Carmouche: That looks awesome.

Dustin: Doesn't it?

Liz Carmouche: I think that looks like a lot of fun. Yeah, it does. It looks like so ... And then you know, it falls right into that whole category. I'd probably feel less nerves because hey, if I get into a hurt spot, I just start hitting, you know? It's what's familiar to me, I'm safe.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Dustin: Oh, that's great. And you've also competed for Invicta, is that correct?

Liz Carmouche: That is correct.

Dustin: It's one of my most favorite fight promotions. I don't know, female fighting, female MMA is so much fun to watch. They're so aggressive and they really look each other in the eye when they blast each other in the face, but how much did you like fighting for the Invicta Fight Corporation?

Liz Carmouche: I loved fighting for Invicta. Shannon Knapp is super awesome. She was really good about taking care of her fighters, being connected with them, knowing what was going on, and the fight organization is just a completely different world. When you go into a show and it's all women, that's a lot of fun. You get to approach things differently and talk to people and she just made it such a comfortable environment to work in, that it was hard to be able to leave it.

Dustin: I guess it would be obvious why you left Invicta to fight the UFC, obviously because there are more viewers, is that right?

Liz Carmouche: Exactly, yeah. At the UFC, there was a lot ... The Invicta at the time just didn't have the top ten in the world, they didn't have the best of the best, and with the UFC looking to do that, my whole goal is just to fight the best. I don't care about fighting people that are ranked 200th in the world if I can fight against number nine, number one in the world, and that's what I'm going for. So with UFC, it really just made sense to transition there to step up my game.

Dustin: That's cool. How many fights do you think you have left in you?

Liz Carmouche: As many as they'll give me.

Jeff: That's awesome.

Liz Carmouche: Honestly, I can't tell you. I don't know that I know that [inaudible 00:25:40] That's what my coach is for, to tell me when it's time, and I definitely want to leave it on a safe level but I'm not there yet.

Dustin: Good.

Jeff: That's great. So you're feeling healthy, strong, uninjured and awesome?

Liz Carmouche: Exactly, yeah.

Jeff: That's really great to hear. If people want to find you and follow you on social media, where they can look?

Liz Carmouche: I'm on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. My Twitter and my Instagram are both iamgirlrilla, and Facebook if you just look up "Liz Carmouche Official," that's me.

Jeff: I gotta ask, where did "girlrilla" come from? Was that you, or was that a ... When you were training?

Liz Carmouche: That was from my coach when I was training. Yeah, that had nothing to do with me, other than jumping off the cage, picking up guys and smashing them into the ground.

Jeff: That's what I was envisioning.

Liz Carmouche: It's exactly what it was, yeah. I guess, because I would just monkey up everything. Like if something was on the roof that I was messed up I'd monkey up it, and then I was climbing off and jumping off the cage and just being crazy, throwing people and stuff, and he said that one day he just looked at me and it was just like a gorilla'd been unleashed in the cage, beating people up.

Jeff: That's excellent.

Dustin: That's the best.

Jeff: That's really really cool.

Dustin: Okay, well thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. I'm really glad we got to sit down and talk with you and I really feel like we learned a lot by doing so, so thank you so much.

Jeff: And I'm so excited to see you eventually get back in that ring and smash some people.

Liz Carmouche: And thank you both for your time today, I appreciate it.