Liz Carmouche explains how she could slide into shot at Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s Bellator belt

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Liz Carmouche is no stranger to title shots: She gave the legendary Marloes Coenen all she could handle in Strikeforce; gave Ronda Rousey a run for her money before falling in one of the most important fights in MMA history at UFC 157; and last time out, went the distance with dominant UFC flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko.

With that in mind, Carmouche (13-7 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) didn’t see any reason to rush to the front of the line when she signed with Bellator earlier this year. Sure, she and her friend and training partner, Bellator flyweight champ Ilima-Lei MacFarlane, have long agreed that fighting one another wouldn’t be a problem.

But the “Girl-Rilla,” who makes her Bellator debut Saturday night against DeAnna Bennett at Bellator 246 at Mohegan Sun Arena, didn’t see a rush to jump the line when there are others out there who could face Macfarlane and have been with Bellator longer.

“I had initially anticipated that, I wanted to prove that this was a fresh start, this was a clean slate, and I’ll work my way through just like everyone else,” Carmouche told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “Because there have been people who have been waiting for their chance for years and I’m not about to take that from anybody.”

But then, well, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Much of the pack at 125 pounds resides outside the United States, and with the U.S. lagging behind the bulk of the developed world in controlling the spread of the virus, many nations have been travel to the country, which has prevented fighters from getting into the country.

“With the current scene state of COVID, and people not being able to get in the country, there are a lot of people that, like, yeah, definitely they deserve the contender’s spot, but they can’t get into the country to get on a fight card,” Carmouche said. “I don’t want to sideswipe them and get ahead the front of it, but there are only so many options so if that happens to me, I’m going to be ready.”

So, should Carmouche defeat Bennett (10-6-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) on Friday night, Carmouche believes things just might play out in such a manner that her fight with her San Diego compadre might come sooner than you’d expect.

“Both of our original opponents are from outside the country, and neither of us were able to book our original fights because of the restrictions,” she said. “So we’re limited on the pool we can actually dip into for possible fights, and that’s very limited.”

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