Liz Carmouche, One of the UFC’s First Female Fighters, Talks Adversity and Advocacy

Liz Carmouche is known for her record-setting battles inside and outside of the Octagon.

She is one of the first two women to bring mixed martial arts (MMA) into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In 2013, Carmouche competed against Ronda Rousey in the sport’s first-ever women’s title fight—the UFC 157—and became “the first openly gay fighter to compete inside the famous cage,” reported

After solidifying herself as a pioneer for female fighters, she’s ready to make her mark on another industry: cannabis.

Carmouche, aka the “Girl-Rilla,” currently fights in the UFC women’s flyweight division, where she is ranked sixth and holds a record of 12-6-0 (wins-losses-draws) as of November 2018. Her most recent fight was July 14th, when she claimed a unanimous victory over Jennifer Mala.

Being an out, female fighter, she said, has a positive impact on her life, though she’s faced adversity along the way.

Carmouche was drawn to MMA after a five-year career in the United States Marine Corps. She worked as an aviation electrician and served three tours of duty in the Middle East. After she left the Marines, she searched for a way to stay active and maintain physical readiness but found other forms of fitness methodical and boring.

“I needed a different outlet. Some people suggested MMA. I completely opposed it at first,” she explained, but she quickly learned that there was more to the sport. “I feel in love with it.” That was nine years ago.

When she first became a pro fighter in 2010, she recalled, “my management team wanted me to downplay that I am a lesbian. At the time, I wasn’t willing to do that.”

Carmouche served in the Marines under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era, which lasted from 1994 to 2011. The experience, she told in 2013, was negative. “I had to be very guarded all the time. It was a very worrying, stressful environment, and I couldn’t even be open about myself even with my best friend in the Marines.”

She vowed to never hide who she was again. When she went pro, she held to that promise. The UFC and her fans embraced her.

In December 2012, the organization’s president, Dana White, publicly expressed his support for Carmouche and encouraged others to feel comfortable enough to do the same. “It takes a brave person to come out … I love what she did,” said White, “I hope more do.”

Carmouche currently serves as a representative for the UFC and LGBT community, a role she said allows her to give a voice to others. She’s previously helped to establish the LGBT Center in Las Vegas and has joined forces with UFC Hall of Famer Forrest Griffin as a spokesperson for the “Protect Yourself at All Times” campaign. The campaign, a partnership between the UFC and the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada, was aimed at raising awareness of the realities of HIV among young people.

Now Carmouche is helping to raise awareness about cannabis. Cannabis, she said, became part of her journey as a UFC fighter two years ago.

“I wanted something that wouldn’t have side effects like traditional [prescription medications do],” Carmouche said. She’s always preferred to put “natural things in my body, [in order] not be weighted down with prescriptions,” she added. “But when it comes to fighting, it’s inevitable.”

At first, Carmouche was hesitant to try CBD. She’d heard the myths about it. But once she tried it, she said, “I fell in love with it.”

Carmouche uses a mixture of products, including topicals and MCT oils (medium-chain triglycerides) to aid in the healing process—particularly after intense practices. CBD is Carmouche’s go-to treatment for inflammation from training. “When I am in and out of practice, sparring and hitting, topicals [provide] instant relief to the sites directly. MCT oils do as well,” she said. “I absolutely love HempMeds Active Relief Roll-On and use it every day before and after my training.”

This year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the UFC officially removed CBD from their lists of banned substances. THC and other cannabinoids, however, remain prohibited. “CBD is not considered a recreational drug. It’s one of the few things we can take and not have to worry,” said Carmouche.

Joe Rogan—MMA commentator and host of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast—reported that cannabis use is quite common in the UFC. Many fighters, including Nick and Nate Diaz, Joe Jones and Jake Shields, advocate for its use.

Combat athletes are prone to injuries, which range from bruising to muscles tears, to bone breaks, to brain trauma. Carmouche said that CBD use has become increasingly common in her sphere in the last few years.

Many are too quick to take cortisone shots to reduce swelling (and therefore pain). The injections have too many negative side effects, explained Carmouche, and other medications can damage the liver or cause stomach pain.

“I think many are turning to cannabis because it has little to no side effects,” Carmouche said. “I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t use it.”

More and more research shows that cannabinoids—CBD in particular—act as neuroprotectors, are effective at relieving pain and have significant antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. One such study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research in 2015, suggests that CBD may help heal bone fractures, too.  

Carmouche believes that more combat athletes should consider using cannabis to aid in the healing process, but she suggests everyone do their research. “Understand the good and the bad of what you’re putting into your body. Anything is possible when you keep your nose to the ground and focus on your dreams ahead of you.”

For more information about Liz Carmouche, visit:

Fact Box:

Carmouche is a spokeswoman for HempMeds, a CBD hemp oil company.

She is a Jiu Jitsu brown belt.

She is a former bantamweight fighter and currently competes in the UFC’s flyweight division.

She earned an A.A. degree in liberal arts and sciences from San Diego City College.

She was born in Louisiana and grew up in Okinawa, Japan.

She served three tours of duty with the United States Marine Corps in the Middle East.

Emerald contributor since February 2016


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