Liz Carmouche Says She Hasn’t Vacated Bellator Title, But Focus is on PFL Season

As far as Liz Carmouche is concerned, she is still the reigning Bellator MMA flyweight champion.

But with that in mind, making her way through the Professional Fighters League season is currently the top priority.

“I didn’t vacate it,” Carmouche said of her Bellator belt during a recent PFL media call. “I don’t know where the standing is. My understanding is that all the women are given an opportunity to come over to the PFL, and that we chose to have the flyweight weight class added in for PFL. So that inclusion meant that there may not be a [125-pound] weight class in Bellator. I certainly don’t remove the idea that if I had an opportunity to defend my belt in Bellator I would, but right now my main focus is just trying to achieve getting to the finals and a belt for PFL.”

Carmouche will square off against Kana Watanabe at PFL 4 on Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. It’s a rematch of a June 2021 fight, which Carmouche won via 35-second technical knockout under the Bellator banner. After earning a decision victory against Juliana Velasquez at PFL 1, Carmouche may need a performance similar to her first meeting with Watanabe to assure herself of a postseason berth.

“I made a transition back in 2019 that I was going to finish fights,” Carmouche said. “That’s what I was in pursuit of with this last fight against Velasquez. And she did a really good job at keeping me at bay, but I was aggressive the entire time. I just wasn’t able to capitalize to get that finish that I wanted. That sense of urgency has been a part of the lifestyle of who I am for fighting. But it certainly does place a much stronger urgency on that to be able make sure I come out with a first-round finish so I’m in good standing and hoping to advance through the season.”

For Carmouche, adding a PFL championship to the trophy case would be especially meaningful due to the different format utilized by the organization.

“There’s so many different things I try to achieve in each chapter of what I’ve made a life and a book of MMA for myself. Hearing about PFL, the rule set, the way that the season and the points [are done], I feel like it’s such a fair way to do things,” she said. “This is an organization I want to be a part of…I want to be able to raise my hand up and hold a belt up with pride. The inclusion of into this chapter would be getting that 125 belt and hopefully adding a 135 belt as well.”

Carmouche made her name as a 135-pound fighter, squaring off against Ronda Rousey for the bantamweight crown in the first women’s fight in UFC history. She hopes that PFL might consider adding the weight class for future seasons, because she believes that it would open doors for athletes who might be misplaced at 125 or 145 pounds.

“It would mean so much because I feel like we’re not really seeing much going on with the 145 females. But Bellator at least did have a 125 and a 145 weight division,” Carmouche said. “What we didn’t have is a 135. And PFL is now opening up and they have the heavier weight classes for women … So I think adding that would be a staple to send a message to other organizations that PFL is the real deal, they’re here to stay, they’re a strong organization that’s building all the women up. …There’s so many great fighters that have advanced up to 145 that aren’t quite suited for the weight class or are coming down to 125 that are suffering like myself, and add 135 [to PFL] and we can produce great exciting fights that people want to see.”

Carmouche is so laser focused on her progress in PFL that potentially fighting at a Bellator event in her hometown of San Diego on Sept. 7 isn’t even a consideration.

“I’m locked in for this PFL season,” she said. “Having that [playoff] fight Aug. 2 and then having the finals after that, I definitely don’t want to do anything that compromises that. So as much as I would love the opportunity to defend my belt, do it in San Diego again, I’m locked in for PFL. I really want that opportunity to shine and I won’t do anything that compromises that so I can put on the best performance possible and continue to fight for PFL.”

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