Liz Carmouche made history when she took on Ronda Rousey in the UFC’s first-ever women’s fight in 2013. Despite falling victim to Rousey’s legendary grappling, Carmouche became a mainstay in the UFC’s flyweight and bantamweight divisions for the next several years. The toughness and skill that she displayed helped propel Women’s Mixed Martial Arts into the mainstream spotlight that it sees today.
However, Carmouche had displayed her toughness years before ever stepping into the UFC octagon. Born into a military family, Carmouche knew that she wanted to join the armed forces at a young age.
“I started working at a really young age, like 12 or 13, and a lot of the work I did was on the base,” Carmouche told Sports Illustrated in 2013. “I got to interact with all kinds of military personnel and each branch of the military and see what they’re really like. I’d see their obstacle courses and they would do their physical fitness tests. I got to see all of it and listen to their stories. That’s really how I started getting interested.”
At the age of 20, Carmouche enlisted in the Marine Corps as an aircraft technician. At the time, women were still banned from holding combat positions in the U.S. military. This meant that, despite her excellent performance on her vocational test to join the Marines, many of the positions Carmouche wanted to fill were unavailable to her.
“I wanted to be a grunt, she explained. “I wanted to do counterintelligence. I also wanted to do reconnaissance and do Special Forces.”
Carmouche served three tours in Iraq during her five years in the Marines, often working long shifts by herself, cleaning out military aircraft. She says that the tenacity and work ethic she learned during this time benefitted her when she made her transition into mixed martial arts.
Her venture into MMA began shortly after her military contract was finished. Carmouche started by doing some workouts on her own and eventually became interested enough to join a gym and test her skills.
“The first day I went in to train… all these guys, they beat the crap out of me, busted my noise, my hair got pulled out. My clothing was ripped. I was tired and beaten. But I was smiling,” said Carmouche, “loving every moment of it.”
The rest was history. Carmouche fought in the biggest organizations that she could at the time, picking up wins in Strikeforce and Invicta FC before eventually getting the call to fight Ronda Rousey for the UFC’s inaugural women’s bantamweight title.
Today, Carmouche is signed with Bellator MMA, where she will continue to fight in their flyweight division. She teaches martial arts at her own gym, the San Diego Combat Academy, as well as at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu San Diego.
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