Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
First openly lesbian fighter makes her way to the top of MMA rankings
In 2010, when Liz Carmouche decided she wanted to compete in the MMA (mixed martial arts) professionally, she did so with a “head on” approach. She was told it would take a year or more of training before she ever saw the ring. But the veteran Marine Corps aviation electrician beat the odds, getting her first chance to fight professionally within four months of starting her training.
Now after 11 wins and six losses, Carmouche is currently the No. 6 ranked 125-pound bantamweight women’s MMA fighter in the world.
In the cage, she is known for her unrelenting strength and combination of Brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, kenpo, and Marine Corps martial arts, making her a formidable force. As the first openly lesbian fighter to headline the first Women’s Bantamweight UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) in 2013, she said that she has had nothing but positive experiences being out in the MMA circuit.
Getting dubbed as the “GIRL-RILLA” and having her “LIZBO Posse” fan base behind her is much more than just a publicity gimmick, it fuels her desire to represent herself as openly gay both in and outside of the cage.
After three tours in Iraq, when she decided that MMA was her future, she said finding the right gym to train in was a crucial part in her journey. She found that gym, with a coach and a team that did not care about her sexual identity, only about her ability to fight, and to win.
Carmouche has carried that philosophy in the running of her own business. She owns three 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu gyms, one in Mission Valley, Spring Valley and another in Oceanside.
“Seeing in our own gym more and more, people from the LGBTQ community are transitioning, they come in here feeling confident that this is a safe place for them,” she said. “For a lot of the members, it provides them with confidence in self-defense, helps them lose weight, have a place where they have camaraderie and come together knowing everyone else is seeking the same things that they are.”
Not only is she a business owner, she runs everything in sales, membership, products, as well as teaches all of the classes and does one-on-one training, along with getting teams ready for competitions.
“At our gyms, we offer ‘for all’ walks. It doesn’t matter what their skill level is,” she said. “It can be their first day and they have never walked into a gym their whole life, to elite professional athletes, and anything in between. We like to cater to everybody and let them know that they are welcome. Skill level, age, mindset, their paths, disabilities, it does not matter.”
She said for herself, it is her way of relieving stress and staying healthy. Even though it is a contact sport that comes with injuries, compared to her lifestyle before [training for MMA], everything she does goes into being healthy for MMA, and making that a lifestyle.
“Mixed martial arts combine all the puzzle pieces,” Carmouche said. “To really succeed in MMA, you have to know how to do boxing, punch, know how to move your head, and counter. You do muay thai, so there’s knees, kicks, elbows and punches. You have to know how to wrestle and take someone down to the ground. You have to know jiu jitsu once you get them to the ground, what to do with that control of body, whether it be joint manipulation, positions, chokes. MMA teaches you to combine all of them into one sport.”
As a gay business owner, and a gay professional athlete, she wants to encourage other gay athletes to feel comfortable and come out.
In an interview with “TMZ Sports,” she said she believes that the UFC is ready to accept a gay athlete and that a man could come out as openly gay and rise to the top of competition. She said she had doubts about a man coming out at first, following her being openly out, but she feels different now after seeing how LGBTQ fighters are treated in MMA gyms. She said she believes that if a man came out now, people would take him for his skill set, not his sexual orientation.
A strong advocate for the LGBTQ community, Carmouche was also happy to see that CBD (a chemical compound found in hemp plants) was removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s 2018 banned substance list, opening access to thousands of athletes around the globe subject to drug testing. CBD, cannabidiol hemp oil, or CBD hemp oil, is made from a high-CBD, low-THC hemp. These hemp oil products are non-psychoactive because hemp only contains trace amounts of THC.
Partnering with San Diego-based CBD company HempMeds, Carmouche is a strong supporter for its use with professional athletes. She said, as an athlete, it means a lot and that it makes a significant difference in recovery.
“Each organization, whether you do NFL, NBA, jiu jitsu or MMA, each organization controls banned substances that athletes can or can’t take into their body,” she said. “Every athlete, whatever they do, are breaking their body every single day. All of us are looking for ways to recover and manage the pain, and inflammation. CBD is a natural way to do that.”
She said now she doesn’t have to take pharmaceuticals, which have many negative side effects. She said in conventional drugs, the negatives outweigh the positives.
“CBD doesn’t have any negative side effects,” she said. “So, the only thing you can get from it is gains. As an athlete, that is all I want. If I am doing something to help my body recover, it’s not going to hurt me down the road. CBD is something I can take every day for the rest of my life and I can take as much as I want today and it is not going to hurt me down the road.”
Originally from Okinawa, Japan, and a resident of San Diego since 2006, Carmouche is still fighting her was to the top of her professional athletic and business careers. She is a mom to 2-year-old Brant and wife to her partner Braelyn.
Find more about 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu bit.ly/2FH1E6C.
Follow Carmouche on Facebook: Liz Carmouche (Official), and on Twitter/Instagram, @iamgirlrilla.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at email@example.com.