Champ Juliana Velasquez doesn’t see Bellator 278 as her biggest test, thinks Liz Carmouche will ‘underestimate’ her


Juliana Velasquez doesn’t feel respected by the MMA community as the undefeated Bellator flyweight champion. On Friday night, when she defends her belt against UFC veteran Liz Carmouche in Honolulu, Hawaii, Velasquez believes she has the opportunity to earn that respect once for all.

Even if she doesn’t feel “Girl-Rilla” is the toughest opponent she’s ever faced in MMA.

“I don’t see [her] as the biggest challenge of my career,” Velasquez said of Carmouche on this week’s episode of Trocação Franca. “She might have the biggest name out of the ones I’ve fought so far because she has fought for the Strikeforce and UFC titles, and for the Bellator title now. But I’m afraid I’d be disrespecting the other girls that have fought me by saying that. Everyone has a name and a history in MMA.”

Carmouche is 3-0 since joining Bellator with wins over DeAnna Bennett, Vanessa Porto, and Kana Watanabe. She’s fought the who’s who of MMA for other promotions as well — names like Valentina Shevchenko, Ronda Rousey, and Miesha Tate — and her 16-7 record includes wins over Katlyn Chookagian, Jessica Andrade, and Shevchenko.

Velasquez, the No. 1 flyweight in Bellator, carries a perfect 12-0 record in the sport with key wins over Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Denise Kielholtz, and Alejandra Lara. That said, she feels that such a résumé won’t earn respect from Carmouche.

“In her head, I think she might be underestimate me,” Velasquez said. “‘She’s not that tough, she never had big fights.’ If she gets in overconfident … I prefer that, actually, because the fall is greater. Sometimes I think she’ll come in with that mindset, thinking her ground game is better than mine.

“I don’t think she’ll stand and trade with me. Maybe she tries to surprise me for thinking I’ll expect her to grapple. Anything can happen, but I think she’s coming to grapple with me. But I’m prepared for any change of scenarios.”

The Brazilian champion feels a victory over Carmouche will show the MMA world that she’s a dominant force in the 125-pound division and that, “I can fight anyone.”

A “very interesting” fight with the UFC’s 125-pound queen Shevchenko might never come to fruition, Velasquez said, but she still has other big plans inside the Bellator cage.

“I’d like to make history in Bellator and retire as the undefeated world champion,” she said. “I’ve thought about asking Bellator to create the bantamweight division too. I’d love to fight in two divisions. I just need time to prepare for all that. I think about holding two belts and retiring undefeated.”