The Noble Pursuits of Liz Carmouche

Consistency and stability matter to Liz Carmouche, especially as she navigates the latter stages of what has been a remarkable career.

The current Bellator MMA women’s flyweight champion will look to improve to 2-0 under the Professional Fighters League banner when she rematches Kana Watanabe as part of the PFL 4 main draw this Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Carmouche embraces the certainty associated with the PFL and its setup, which could result in a $1 million payday at the conclusion of the 2024 season.

“Fighting is always a big risk, no matter what you do,” she told Sherdog.com. “This is the first time since I started fighting where I was guaranteed I was going to get four fights in a year, whether that’s getting you the belt or not. To me, that’s at least a happy ending because I know I’m going to be fighting four times, instead of that guesswork of begging to fight and only being able to fight once, maybe twice, in a year. This guarantees four fights. To me, it’s nothing but positivity, and then you add that cherry on top: a million-dollar win. That’s even more appealing.

“My first year, I think I fought like eight or nine times, and I thought that that was what the tempo of MMA would always be,” Carmouche added. “As it went on and on, I was only getting one fight a year, maybe two fights a year. It wasn’t as enjoyable for me. I love staying active, so being part of an organization that also wants to feed into that and guarantee a season of play and not like the guesswork of ‘Will I be fighting again in nine months, one month?’ … you know exactly when you’re going to fight again, and I love that about PFL.”

Carmouche made her promotional debut at PFL 1, where she outpointed Juliana Velasquez to a unanimous decision on April 4. She finds herself tied with Watanabe in the 125-pound standings—they have three points apiece—behind Dakota Ditcheva, Taila Santos and Jena Bishop, all of whom executed first-round finishes to start their regular-season run. Only the Top 4 qualifiers advance to the PFL playoffs.

“Definitely in the PFL, the finish is the incentive,” Carmouche said. “Just getting a win doesn’t do anything for you. Right now, Kana and I are tied because both of us got decision wins and didn’t finish in the first round, like all the other women did. That lights a fire underneath me to have to finish in this next fight to make sure that I guarantee my spot going forward. The thing is, we both messed up. We weren’t able to do what we needed to and get the finish to guarantee fighting somebody else. It has to be the two of us.”

Carmouche first met Watanabe at Bellator 261, where she took out Japanese judoka with punches a mere 35 seconds into their June 25, 2021 pairing. Does such a lopsided win provide the Louisiana native with an edge ahead of the rematch?

“It’s impossible to tell,” Carmouche said. “If you had said that the way that I would have beat Kana the first time was [by] TKO from breaking her face, I wouldn’t have suspected that. Certainly, with the growth that she’s done in each of her fights, now it makes me question if it’s going to be that I finish her striking or we get to the ground and maybe I submit her. I know either way it’s going to be a finish.”

Looking ahead without looking past Kana, Carmouche would like to see the PFL institute a women’s bantamweight division for 2025.

“What I really want to do is get that 135-pound division added,” she said. “I’m hoping that after this season concludes, it closes out 125 and then we can push to get 135. Right now, we don’t see the 145 Bellator females active. I know a lot of them were too big to go down to 125 but also too small to be 145ers. I think that there are women within the 125-pound division and in the 145-pound division that could fill out a good division at 135 and put on exciting fights for the next season. That’s what I'm pushing for.”

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