UFC has been one of the fastest growing mixed martial arts organizations in the last decade. Now, after popular demand from both the athletes and the fans, it has become legal in New York State and many others. In November, fighter Liz Carmouche became the first person to ever win a legal MMA fight at Madison Square Garden when she defeated Katlyn Chookagian. While this was a huge accomplishment, it wasn't the only barrier Liz has broken in the industry. She competed in the first ever women's MMA match in the UFC against Ronda Rousey and is the first openly lesbian fighter in the UFC. Below, Liz discusses how she got to where she is today, what she'd be doing if she wasn't an MMA fighter and of course, what fuels her.
What led up to your win at Madison Square Garden?
Leading up to the fight at Madison Square Garden, I had 18 months of time off. I was begging to get back into it. Then I got the phone call about the fight and I didn’t even listen long enough to hear what the offer way I just said yes. My mom was born and raised in New York City, so any chance that I can get to fight there I’ll take it. I knew it was going to be a tough fight, but I was looking forward to.
What's a typical day like for you?
My training session begins at 8:30. I do situational training and cardio and jitsu. I don’t have flavored coffee, things like that. There’s not a day I can go without coffee. I cut out desserts. I do this all leading up to the fight, so I don’t have to cut or go in the sauna before the fight. I just don’t like the fear of not making weight.
Why was this fight so important?
For any fight in New York that were MMA were not legal up until this point. The UFC has been lobbying for the last decade. So to not only have the first UFC fight in New York but to have it at Madison Square Garden was a big deal. It finally showed that the UFC is here. For me, my mom's side of the family is from New York so I was able to represent and put on a show for them. Being the first fight of the night, I had to set the precedence.
MMA must be so hard on you, physically. When do you stop?
The industry is changing because there are so many fighters coming out of retirement. So they’ve changed the retirement age. I have other people in my life who will tell me when it’s too much. I don’t see a cap. I need other people to tell me when it’s time to take a break.
If you weren't a fighter what would you be doing?
I own and operate the gym I train out of. I’m there all day every day. It’s all of my free time. If I wasn’t fighting, I don't know what’d I do, I think this is what I was meant to do. The only time I ever didn't want to do it was when I couldn't book fights, it never had anything to do with not loving the sport.
What fuels you?
Coffee. I'm not even kidding. The first thing I do is I brew my coffee. I have to have more in the afternoon. There's more coffee in my bloodstream than blood.
What advice do you have for people, particularly women, to make a name for themselves in athletics?
The word "can't" isn't in my vocabulary. Don't say you "can't" do this, it may be difficult but there's nothing you can't do. It may be a long and strenuous road but you can do it.