Juliana Velasquez no longer angry at Liz Carmouche ahead of trilogy match at PFL

Former Bellator flyweight champion Juliana Velasquez makes her PFL debut Thursday night in a trilogy fight with Liz Carmouche in San Antonio, but returns with a different mindset.

Velasquez lost her title to Carmouche in a controversial TKO in April 2022, complaining about what she considered an early stoppage, and was denied an appeal by the Hawaii commission. They rematched later that year, and this time Carmouche won via second-round armbar. Back to action after dealing with health issues, an infection that forced to cancel a fight in Bellator in late 2023, Velasquez has no hard feelings towards “Girl-Rilla.”

“I think I’m lighter now,” Velasquez said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “Liz Carmouche is staying on the same floor here at the hotel and we bumped into each other a few times. Before the rematch, I saw her and I was growling in anger at her. I didn’t even want to look at her face. Not this time.

“The first thing I did when I met her was to shake her hand. I have a different mindset now. This time away was important for me. Regardless of wanting to finish her, I’m thrilled to be back. I’ve always fought this way, happy, doing what I’ve trained.”

Velasquez has only lost twice in MMA, both to Carmouche, and admitted that in a way it helps her compete better this time.

“That [second] loss in 2022 was very important for me because it removed a weight from my shoulders, to be honest,” Velasquez said. “Everybody always asked me what it was like to be undefeated. Even though I always said I felt no pressure, that’s a lie. You always feel pressured to make sure no one takes that away from you. I put so much pressure over myself.

“Now that that pressure is gone, I’m going in there to have fun. All that anger, all that rematch vibe, it’s all out of my head. To me, she’s a fresh opponent.”

Velasquez cited Dakota Ditcheva one of the toughest adversaries in the 2024 season of the PFL, but feels she still needs to be tested against tougher competition after winning the PFL Europe season in 2023. And much like Carmouche, who told MMA Fighting she didn’t understood the decision to book the trilogy right away, Velasquez also questioned the promotion why they went in that direction.

“I thought it made no sense,” Velasquez said. “They explained me that it was to promote the card because there was no other rivalry there, only ours, so they decided to go with this trilogy. At first I thought it made no sense, but like I always say, I’m an employee and I have to fight. I have to go through her if I want to win the season, right in the beginning or in the end. I have to beat everybody to reach the final for the $1 million, so I have to be ready.”

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