A bit of history will be made Saturday night in Seattle, when Liz Carmouche, 29, fights Jessica Andrade, 21, in a UFC bantamweight bout. The fight can be seen live on Fox at 8 p.m. EDT. It's Andrade's first UFC fight, while Carmouche's last UFC event was a loss to champion Ronda Rousey where she gave Rousey all she could handle. The significance of Saturday's fight, though, is that both Andrade and Carmouche are openly lesbian.
I'm a big fan of Carmouche (8-3), nicknamed "Girlrilla" for her intense fighting style, and profiled her prior to her fight with Rousey. She's totally out and proud -- she wore a Pride mouthpiece during her last fight -- and her fans call themselves "Lizbos." But Andrade (9-2) is newer to the scene, having been born and raised in Brazil. She does not speak English, so I was able to get my questions answered by her with the help Ant Evans, UFC Director of Talent Profiling, who worked with a translator. Andrade talked about her sexual orientation in addition to her fighting career.
Q: How long have you been out as a lesbian? Why did you make a decision to be open about who you are in your private life?
Jessica Andrade: I always knew since I was a kid what I was and what I wanted in a partner. I only came out in my teens when I started having relationships. I have a girlfriend and, on Aug. 2, we will be celebrating being together for two years. I never really kept this as a secret from anyone; I have always been open about it.
Q: Are your teammates supportive?
Jessica Andrade: Yes, they are. Although some of them do ask me to let them know if I’m ever interested dating men! Jokes aside, all of them are very respectful and that is all that matters. In MMA there’s a lot of respect, and I feel respected as a woman and as a lesbian.
Q: Being from Brazil, which is a very Catholic country, how have you been received and have you had any difficulties being a lesbian?
Jessica Andrade: In general people do take it well, but not everybody agrees with people being gay. But I have to respect everybody’s opinion. You have to be respectful if you want to be respected -- and this is usually how things go. I have been in my fair share of tough spots where I wasn’t treated with a lot of respect, but nothing that serious. I think there’s nothing negative that couldn’t be avoided if people showed each other more respect. I am religious myself and I have a lot of faith. And I know that all of these things that are happening in my life are a blessing from God.
Q: Do you see yourself as a role model for other LGBT athletes?
Jessica Andrade: Yes and no. I don’t want to force anyone into being or doing something they are not. Everyone has to choose how to live their own life. I believe everybody has to the choice to do what they believe is right in their hearts. On the other hand, I believe gays and lesbians in the public eye today can help show everyone that gays and lesbians are regular people just like anyone else. We are sort of the frontrunners, if we are seen to be just ordinary people, then maybe everyone comes to understand every gay and lesbian is just like them.
Q: Liz Carmouche is also gay and has been very well received by the MMA fans and media. Were you happy to see a gay athlete become so embraced by the MMA world?
Jessica Andrade: Yes, it is very nice to see that prejudice is less and less of a factor. I was very happy to see how she was so popular in the U.S. when she fought Ronda Rousey for the title. Liz seems a great person and is an exciting athlete. Society as a whole is becoming more aware that in the end we are all the same, no matter what your sexual orientation is. Sexual orientation does not change who you are inside, it does not affect a person´s character.
Q: How did you get into MMA? What attracted you to the sport?
Jessica Andrade: I became interested in martial arts at school. There was a judo class for students, and I really wanted to take part in it, but I wasn’t old enough to take part. So I asked the teacher if there was any other class I could take and he said he taught a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class for my age group at a local gym. So I ended up doing that and I loved it. A few months after starting jiu-jitsu there was an opening at a local MMA card and I was invited to fight -- I had a week to train basic striking, but I and went to the fight. Even with little preparation I ended up winning and I loved it. I haven’t stopped training and competition in MMA since.
Q: Did you watch the UFC growing up?
Jessica Andrade: I didn’t really know what the UFC was until very recently. I grew up in a small farm and there wasn’t any access to martial arts, much less the UFC, there. I only got some idea of what the UFC was and how big it was all over the world with when I started training jiu-jitsu and my gym mate would talk about it all the time. I only really got to know the UFC after I did my first fight and started researching and talking with other BJJ players. As soon as I saw it myself, it was a dream to get to the UFC.
Q: You turned pro after less than a year of training. Were you always a natural athlete?
Jessica Andrade: Yes, I always loved sports and did quite well in a lot of sports. I always believed that if you do something you love you are likely to become good at it. This is what I feel about my development in MMA, I just loved it and that is why I was able to develop so quickly in it.
Q: What is your style of fighting?
Jessica Andrade: My style is quite frenetic. I hate stalling, and I’m pretty sure the audience doesn’t like to see it either. I love action and to show the fans what I’m there for -- to fight. I work a lot on my stamina so I can keep up the fast pace for the entire fight. My base was more on jiu-jitsu - but I have been working a lot on my standup lately to put on an entertaining fight for the crowd.
Q: How did you get the name "Piledriver"?
Jessica Andrade: Yeah, I got the nickname after i did a piledriver in a BJJ competition when I first started. The maneuver is illegal in jiu-jitsu so I got disqualified for it. It was my first tournament and I got caught in a bad spot and my instant reaction was to do the piledriver and I got thrown out of the fight. Of course, all my teammates and friends thought that was funny so everybody started calling me "Piledriver". And you know how it is -- if you don’t like being called something, you can be sure that is going to stick with you for a long time.
Q: How did you find out you were fighting live on Fox in the USA?
Jessica Andrade: My coach told me when I was at the gym. He came to me, asked me to sit down because he had received a phone call from our manager. So he gave me the news, we were all jumping for joy, it was a dream come true, not just for me but for our team as a whole. I’m training extremely hard to make sure I will show the UFC I was deserving of getting my first fight televised on Fox. I am going to give the fans in the U.S. a great fight to watch -- and I will not let my family and friends in Brazil down.
More from Outsports:
- Rugby player is also gay porn star Colby Jansen
- Ex-NFL players Wade Davis, Esera Tuaolo talk growing up gay for Sports Illustrated
- Boxer Emile Griffith passes away
- Trans athletes & MMA: Google hangout, Wed., 3pmET
- Out-Fit Mud Run raises money for LGBT charities
- Robbie Rogers misses game with leg injury
- How gay is your favorite NFL franchise?
- Brittney Griner has WNBA's top-selling jersey
- Gay sports news: Britney Griner rises above bullying; porn stars follow Kluwe; gay speedskater One Direction Fan
- Nude photos of Australian rugby player George Burgess wind up on Twitter