Liz Carmouche is the definition of a class act.
Not only is she known for being an essential part of UFC history, but as a United States Marine Corp Veteran, she is the most decorated ex-military athlete in the UFC, today. Carmouche began her professional fighting career back in 2010 with Strikeforce before they were bought out by the UFC. She came out of the gate swinging, earning her nickname Girl-Rilla, after winning her first three fights by knockout or submission. Her UFC debut and the first ever fight for a title by women was against Ronda Rousey in UFC 157. Eight years later, her record stands at, 10-6, winning 5 of her last nine fights.
Inside Beauty got an exclusivve opportunity to speak with Liz about being the first openly gay fighter in the UFC, her time as a U.S. Marine, and being the new spokesperson for HempMeds.com
IB: To start, we wanted to take a moment and thank you for your service. Can you tell us what about being a Marine inspired you to become an MMA fighter?
LC: Thank you! I have always wanted to have an athletic career; MMA was something that was completely new to me, and people who I had worked with has suggested that I get into it. I was always looking for a challenge, something other than running and lifting weight and they suggested with my attention span, my energy, and my aggressive nature that MMA would probably be a good fit. So I went in, and they were right!
IB: As we know, you dominated the first three fights of your professional career in 2010, but women had never fought in the UFC; was it on the horizon at the time to one day be the women who broke into the UFC?
LC: No, not really. Really my dreams were fighting Cyborg. At the time I knew her to be the toughest woman out there. At that point I had no idea how small I actually was, I was just convinced I could be the person who could go in there, beat her, and take that title in Strikeforce. Then when Strikeforce was bought out by the UFC, I was just hoping they would integrate women in, but they were saying they didn’t want women as a part of the UFC.
IB: Ufc 157, the first time women had ever competed for a title; what was it like at the moment stepping into the octagon knowing you were a part of such a historic moment for the sport?
LC: At the time, that perspective and going through it, it hadn’t hit me yet that I was a part of history or that I was a part in making history with that significant change. All I was seeing was making this big change in my own career, winning a belt, and making it in the UFC. That’s all I could think about. Just putting on the best performance that I could and trying to snag that belt from Ronda.
IB: You recently came out as the first openly lesbian fighter in the UFC. How did you decide it was time to share that with the world?
LC: The most significant influence for that was having been in the military, honestly. It was during, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and I came out really late. I was just a late bloomer; I came out when I was 22; I was in the Marine Corp, and I couldn’t really be honest with myself and to the people around me for fear of being kicked out of the military. After going through that for the five years I was in, I just decided that I never wanted that again in my life and if it meant that I would lose out on fighting opportunities and sponsorships, then that was okay. I needed to be honest with myself, and just pave the way down the path being 100% who I am.
IB: Were you scared about that or did you just accept it regardless of the outcome?
LC: I was just accepting of it. From what I could tell just from the experience with my own fight team and how they accepted me, it didn’t matter what my sexual preference was. I was hopeful that the rest of MMA would be like that; that I would have similar experiences and wouldn’t be denied fights or sponsors. But of course also realistic that that probably wouldn’t happen, but accepting that it didn’t matter as long as I had this fighting team that I have and that I was just going out there, doing everything that I could.
IB: UFC President Dana White praised you for coming out and being brave enough to do what you did. Was this something you had discussed with him prior?
LC: I didn’t think that there would be a lot of judgment from them; again, I hadn’t really seen it. I was just honest with everything. My original management team had kind of asked me to downplay the fact of my sexual preference; downplay that I was a lesbian. I told them I wasn’t going to do that even if it costs my the sponsorships. I was curious to see how it would influence things going into the UFC but Dana White surprised me by just being so accepting and embracing the situation.
IB: Would you say your life or career has changed at all since UFC 157?
LC: Absolutely. When I started off, I was still going to school fulltime, so college was the most important thing. Every time I went to a fight, I would bring a suitcase full of my textbooks, homework, and papers that I had to take care of during fight week. While everyone else was relaxing in their hotel rooms, I was in there turning in mid-terms and assignments trying to keep up with my grades. My lifestyle has now changed completely; I have a fiancè, we have a two-year-old, I’ve graduated college, I own three gyms that I help operate; my life has changed so much since UFC 157.
IB: This year, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its band drug substances. What were/are your thoughts on this?
LC: It was a change I was truly grateful for. I was monitoring the restrictions on cannabis and the amount of CBD that could be in your system, so you could still use it; you were just always still taking it at your own risk that it could pop on a test. Now with those changes, it’s never a consideration. I know I can use CBD as often as I need to for the recovery of my body. I think with most athletes, that’s what they need to do because most of us want to take the natural route. We’re not all looking to do steroids or any of these crazy things that we can put into our bodies. We want to stay as healthy as possible, and CBD is natural enough to do that. It helps tremendously with inflammation which is what most of us experience in contact sports. That is inevitable. You’re banging two bodies together. You can’t come out of practice without some bumps and bruises – and to have something that does not damage my liver and kidneys, I stand by that, I have to.
IB: CBD Hemp Oil has helped your inflammation and pain but how were you treating it before?
LC: I feel a lot of differences. There were days where we would go hard in practice and say we bump shin to shin, both of us come out, and our shins are swollen; before it was a matter of me icing and elevation. I’m just not a big proponent of taking things like Tylenol and Motrin because I know that extended use of that and how it can damage your kidneys and liver. It’s bad for your teeth, and honestly, it just has a lot of side effects that come with it. There are no side effects with CBD. It was a no-brainer for me.
IB: So what was the deciding factor?
LC: I wanted to give it at least a try and see how it worked. I noticed the difference right away. Previously, I had missed a lot of practice. If I would participate in 8 hours of training, that next day it would be tough to get out of bed. You’re super sore. You’re banged up. All you want to do is sleep and rest your body – you’re too sore to move. I noticed that once I started with the oil, I’d get up in the morning and not see any fatigue. I had no issues waking up and no problems with sleeping at all. This was a big thing for me, and I know most vets, we all struggle with sleeping. It’s a huge aid for me in so many ways.
IB: You are now a spokesperson for HempMeds. With so many CBD Oils that are on the market, what was it about this particular brand that made you partner with them?
LC: I had tried a few different brands, and I had really loved the people at Charlotte’s Web. I had a great relationship with them, great meeting with them and when they brought me out to an event I bonded with them and what they had. I found out they had something very similar, so I told them- okay! We have this great company and what really sold it for me was being open-minded to trying different products.
One of their reps said to me, ‘Hey! Why don’t you try it? Just a warning though, don’t take it during the day, take it at night before you go to sleep and it should put you to sleep pretty fast.” Of course, I had already tried about 4 CBD brands at that point, and I was like, ‘Oh okay, yeah. Don’t worry about it; it’ll put me to sleep’, not really believing it. So I go home, take it, and passed out instantly on the couch at a weird angle. Then I woke up hours later feeling more well rested than I ever have and went to bed in disbelief that he was right about the CBD. That for me, that said it alone. I didn’t have to fake anything. Every other CBD products, I could take, and while it definitely would help me sleep better, it wouldn’t knock me out for a solid 8 hours of sleep.
IB: Do you think CBD oil could be the magic factor that will extend athlete’s careers?
LC: I actually think it does. I think he was right and of course, everyone wants the miracle drug that’s going to cure everything – a cure for weight loss or a cure for recovery – and that certainly won’t happen, but it will aid them in the longevity of their career and help along the way for sure.
IB: Knowing what you know now after accomplishing what you have in your career and where it has taken you if you could go back and give your rookie-self advice, what would it be?
LC: I would have done CBD a lot earlier in my career. I see all the benefits now. In general, most of us fighters don’t think about recovery. We don’t think about stretching and icing and cryotherapy, going to massages or any of that. We take advantage of our metabolisms and being able to eat whatever we want – which slows down eventually. Then the recovery, just taking care of our bodies for the little injuries- you know, they add up. So what starts off as being small injuries can grow and cost you your fight because they eventually turn into a more serious injury. Early in my career, I didn’t take recovery as a real consideration, and now it’s just so important. It’s more important to me than anything else in my fighting career, so I would definitely have focused on that more from the beginning.
Carmouche continues to strive in her career, training for future events, supporting brands that have made an impact on her life, and focusing on her family and team. It is evident that she has reached a point in her life in which she will continue to excel. So the only question left is, what history will she make next?