After beating Liz Carmouche at Bellator 278, I should be among the best pound for pound

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HONOLULU — Juliana Velasquez acknowledges that her name may not be one of the best pound-for-pound yet, but Bellator 278, she thinks, should change that.

A former Olympic judoka, Velasquez (12-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) has yet to lose a mixed martial arts bout. If she defeats former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche (16-7 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) in the main event of Bellator 278, it will mark two successful defenses for the champion.

“I think I should (be mentioned in conversation), but I have a fight coming up,” Velasquez told MMA Junkie through an interpreter at a press conference Wednesday. “Of course my name will be on the list after this game.”

Velasquez, 35, started MMA later than most, but it worked out well. She defeated long-time defending champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in December 2020 before a split decision over Denise Kielholtz earned her first title defense in June 2021. The latter result was controversial, as many viewers scored the fight for Kielholtz.

“Obviously I learned a lot,” Velasquez said. “Usually I don’t want to let the judges decide. I don’t like to leave my fight in the hands of the judges, but I think (I did) enough. … I had my internal problems. There was a little pressure. It was my first title defense. Today I feel very confident and very hungry to get a knockout.

Carmouche, 38, is only three years older than Velasquez, but his tenure in the fight game is far more veteran than the Brazilian. Carmouche fought for a UFC title before Velasquez even had a single amateur fight.

Despite Carmouche’s place among the first prominent female fighters in UFC history, Velasquez wasn’t concerned about nostalgia sharing a poster. There is currently only one A-side, she thinks.

“She has a lot of experience, but today I’m the world champion, not her,” Velasquez said. “I look at the poster and I’m just super happy to be there.”

Bellator 278 takes place Friday at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center with the main card airing on Showtime following the prelims on MMA Junkie.

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