So, it came as a surprise when she was released by the UFC last week. Carmouche said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show that her management informed her Friday that she had been cut. The reason she was told: that she almost too good for her 125-pound division and wasn't allowing for it to grow.
"The reason that they gave is that they're really trying to build up the division and every female that they've brought into the 125-pound division, I've been able to beat them," said Carmouche, who fought Ronda Rousey in the first UFC women's fight in 2013. "So it's not really giving them the opportunity to build up the division the way they've wanted to. So for the best well-being of the division, they had to cut me to give me an opportunity to go elsewhere and get the fights I need."
Carmouche (13-7) said she is constantly asking for fights and then being told by UFC matchmakers that potential opponents are turning her down. Carmouche said ideally she would like to fight three or four times a year. In reality, she has fought only four times since 2017. Carmouche has won four of her past six fights going back to 2015. ESPN has Carmouche ranked No. 5 among women's flyweight fighters in MMA.
"What that tells me is that [other fighters are] so scared of me [the UFC] can't do anything about it," Carmouche said. "I mean, it would be worse if they were like, you're just not good enough, we're just gonna have to cut you. Instead of, all the females are afraid of me. I'd much rather have it fear for them than it be that I just wasn't skilled enough or made a mistake that cost it." Carmouche lost a lopsided unanimous decision to Shevchenko at UFC Uruguay on Aug. 10. She said that she was told that loss had nothing to do with why she was released, though she suspected it initially.
When Carmouche was informed by her management about getting cut, she said she was in Washington, D.C., doing promotional work for the UFC. She was in a car with other UFC fighters and UFC executive Reed Harris and didn't want to say anything to them. The group had just left a hospital where they met with ill children and adults undergoing chemotherapy.
"I just had to save face, because it wasn't for anybody that was in the vehicle," Carmouche said. "They didn't do anything wrong. It was nothing on their part. So the last thing I wanted to do was be upset or lash out towards them."
Carmouche, 35, said she plans on continuing fighting and still wants to compete as much as possible. Right now, she said, Bellator MMA is "at the top of the list," though she has multiple offers outstanding.
Interestingly, Carmouche's teammate and main training partner Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is Bellator's women's flyweight champion. The two have expressed interest in fighting each other, which would be a unique occurrence in MMA. Carmouche also fought for Strikeforce under current Bellator promoter Scott Coker and current Bellator matchmaker Rich Chou.
"That would be a perfect fit, because I already know them and I have a good relationship with them," Carmouche said. "On top of that, I have my teammate that's leading in that division and has the belt. We've talked about it for years that a great fight for both of us would be each other, because we're our main training partners. We know our weaknesses and strengths. We know how to put on a good show. And we feel like for both of us that would be a really good fit."