HONOLULU – Juliana Velasquez admits her name may not be one of the pound-for-pound best yet, but Bellator 278, she thinks, should change that.
Former international judo standout Velasquez (12-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) has yet to lose a mixed martial arts match. If she defeats former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche (16-7 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) in the Bellator 278 main event, it will be two successful defenses for the champion.
“I think I should (be mentioned in the conversation), but I have a fight ahead,” Velasquez told an MMA Junkie news conference by an interpreter on Wednesday. “For sure, my name will be on the list after this match.”
Velasquez, 35, started MMA later than most, but it worked out well. She defeated longtime champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane in December 2020 before a split decision over Denise Kielholtz earned her her first title defense in June 2021. The latter result was controversial, as many viewers recorded the fight for Kielholtz.
“Of course I learned a lot,” Velasquez said. “Usually I do not want to let the judges decide. I do not like to leave my fight in the hands of the judges, but I think (I have) enough. . I had my internal problems. There was a bit of pressure. This was my first title defense. Today I feel very confident and I am very hungry to get a knockout blow. ”
Carmouche, 38, is just three years older than Velasquez, but her tenure in the fighting 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 as one of the initial top-level women’s fighters in UFC history, Velasquez was not worried about the nostalgia for sharing a poster. There is currently only one A-side, she thinks.
“She is very experienced, but today I am the world champion – not her,” said Velasquez. “I’m looking at the poster and I’m just really excited to be there.”
Bellator 278 takes place Friday at Neal S. Blaisdell Center with the main ticket airing on Showtime following precursors on MMA Junkie.