Guest Post and Video: UFC's Liz Carmouche on media and making history

This is our second guest blog from mixed martial artist Liz Carmouche, who on Saturday will become the first openly gay fighter and one of the first two female fighters in the history of UFC. You can read the first one here, and our interview with Liz here.

By Liz Carmouche:

Tomorrow, Saturday night, at around 7pm Pacific time I will be in the Honda Center, Anaheim, warming up to challenge Ronda Rousey for the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight title. People in over 150 countries will be tuning in to see me and Ronda – and the other fighters in the UFC 157 card – compete on Pay-Per-View.

The fight is my reward for years of struggling, training and working hard. This is the biggest opportunity of my life. The media attention on this fight, being the first women’s fight in the UFC, has been huge and I am determined to pull off the upset tomorrow.

Four years ago I was in Iraq, serving as a helicopter electrician for the US Marines.  It has been very strange, going from serving as a Marine under “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and living as closeted a life as possible and living in constant fear of being “outed” by homophobic colleagues – to being interviewed as an openly gay athlete by reporters from the New York Times, LA Times, ESPN and – on Wednesday – even Larry King. 

Somehow, since I signed for this fight, I’ve become a spokesperson for the gay community. It has happened almost overnight. I’ve been telling my own story of how I came out once I left the Marines with the encouragement of the three most important people in my life, my mum, my sister and my partner.  I’ve gone on TV and radio to tell the story how my best friend in the Marines – who I will called identify as “Kim” because we are still friends – was a total homophobe until I came out to her and confronted her with her words and prejudices. I’ve told that story of how she broke down and admitted she didn’t know why she was so homophobic maybe 50 times in the last month to different journalists.

It is hard to see myself as a “spokesperson” for any group or community but it has been an honor to show a wide audience that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. The UFC fans have been awesome, they call themselves “the Lizbos” and this has been a great experience so far. First and foremost the UFC promote me as an athlete and world title challenger and, because challengers are introduced before champions, the first woman to ever step inside the UFC Octagon (the ‘cage’ where the fight will take place).

But the UFC has encouraged gay media to tell my story, and I’ve spoken to dozens of LGBT media and journalists, telling my story.

My girlfriend, Eliza, has been with me here in the official fight hotel all week. She’s come with me to every interview, radio station, TV studio and photo session all week and it has been amazing to have the girl I love with me to share this experience with. My mum and sister are here too, and I feel hugely supported going into this challenge against the best female fighter in the world.

Now, though, the media and interviews stops and it is time to fight. I want to thank everyone from the LGBT community for their support. I will do my best to win that belt as the first openly gay fighter in the UFC.

UFC 157: Rousey vs Carmouche will be live on Pay-Per-View Saturday night 7pm/10pm PT/ET.