An important piece of mixed martial arts history took place on Sept. 30, 2010 -- in Concho, Oklahoma, of all places.
On that date, Valentina Shevchenko fought Liz Carmouche. Shevchenko is now UFC flyweight champion and arguably the best female fighter in the world, and Carmouche is a ranked UFC veteran who faced Ronda Rousey in the first women's fight in the promotion's history. But nine years ago, both were just beginning their mixed martial arts careers.
The result of their 2010 fight is an important one, in that it represents one of only three losses Shevchenko has suffered in MMA. The other two defeats came against Amanda Nunes, now a two-division world champion. And then there was the Carmouche fight, which Shevchenko lost via second-round TKO.
Carmouche and Shevchenko will meet again on Aug. 10 in Montevideo, Uruguay -- this time, for Shevchenko's championship belt.
There is no known video of their first fight to revisit. So what happened on that night in Oklahoma? ESPN spoke to both women to recreate the scene.
Shevchenko: I was living in Peru and I got the offer to fight in America. I didn't even know the name of my opponent. At that time, it didn't matter who the opponent was. I had never been to the U.S., but I had my visa and I was receiving offers to fight all over the world. At that moment, it was not about getting a fight in the U.S. for me. It was just about trying to find an MMA fight.
I hadn't fought in MMA since 2006. I competed only in Muay Thai between 2006 and 2010. But we were seeing a lot of movement in female MMA and knew we needed to get back into it.
I had some friends living in Houston, and we flew there to stay with them. They were the ones who found this fight for me. My plan was to stay for one month and fight twice in that time. Liz was the first fight.
Carmouche: I was actually supposed to fight her sister, Antonina. At that time, I think her sister had a few kickboxing matches, but nothing too extensive. I was brand new. I was as green as green could be.
We were contacted by an organization called C3 in Oklahoma. We showed up and saw the poster and were like, "Wait a second. Something doesn't look right. I thought Antonina had brown hair and she's orthodox. This woman has blonde hair and is standing southpaw."
And the promotion said, "No, no. You're fighting her sister, Valentina."
And I was like, "Oh, isn't that the one who has been doing this for, like, 10 years and is a Muay Thai champion?"
Shevchenko: Antonina was not with me that trip. I really don't know what the promoter said to Liz; all I know was the fight was offered directly to me. Antonina, at that moment, she was not even thinking about coming back to MMA. She didn't start thinking about coming back to MMA until 2017.
I'm not surprised the promotion told Liz something else, but what I know is, I accepted the fight.
Carmouche: I don't think Valentina knew. I think it was the promoter. I heard later on, from other people, that promotion did some shady things. My coach, Manolo Hernandez, told them, "We flew all the way over here, and you're trying to put one over on us. This is really messed up. Liz is brand new."
Of course, I'm behind him saying, "I'll take the fight. I'll take the fight. Please let me fight."
I think the deal they offered us was they added per diem for that week. At that point, it was hard for me to even afford my medicals. When they offered something like, "OK, we'll pay for your food," we were like, "Oh, OK, food? We'll take it." [Laughs.] This was when I was making about $300 per fight.
"The arena itself was just a cage outside. It was poorly lit, and it was snowing." Liz Carmouche
Shevchenko: We drove by car from Houston to Oklahoma. It was me, [coach] Pavel Fedotov and the two friends we were staying with. If I'm not mistaken, we didn't get there until the weigh-ins were already over. I weighed in late that night, and the fight was the next day.
Carmouche: It was just myself and Manolo. When we told people [in San Diego] we were going out to Oklahoma and the details of it -- it's a two-hour drive from the airport, it's in the middle of nowhere -- people were like, "Yeah, I'm not going with you to that. See you later."
It was cold. There was no good food there. They did have someone pick us all up from the airport, because most of the fighters flew in at the same time. The arena itself was just a cage outside. It was poorly lit, and it was snowing.
Shevchenko: I do remember it was outside. I went from the changing room to where the [cage] was, and it was down the street, I think. Maybe there was even a small golf cart that drove us to the cage?
Carmouche: The locker room was just one of those aluminum structures, this large, white, rectangular can they had outside. I shoulder checked my coach into the wall as we were warming up, and some of the roofing caved down on us. It was not well put together.
There was no coverage of [the fight]. This was before anybody had technology on their phones and could record it. This was the flip phone days.
Shevchenko: The fight was going good. Everything was going to plan. I was winning the striking and then I took her down. At that point, I tried to make a leg lock and she threw a kick from the ground. We continued to fight and I realized, "There's a lot of blood everywhere." I was surprised. I thought, "Whose blood is that?" When the round was stopped, I saw that it was my blood.
Carmouche: I was trying to hold my own, but at that point, I don't think I had even sparred somebody who was a southpaw, let alone fought one. I didn't quite know what to do. Thankfully, we went to the ground, and I caught her with an upkick. It sliced her eye wide open. It was just nonstop bleeding from her eye. And she wasn't able to answer the bell for the next round.
Shevchenko: The doctor came in and decided to stop the fight. I was like, "No, I want to continue." But they made the decision.
Carmouche: It was amusing, because she had what Manolo called "the Russian mafia" with her. And he started chanting, "America! America!" as we walked through the casino. I was covered in blood. My only concern was getting it all washed off me, because I think the only thing they tested for was HIV. I was freaking out about the possibilities there could be some blood-borne illness on my skin.
Shevchenko: After the fight, they wanted me to go to the hospital, but I was insistent they [stitch my eye] right there right away. I didn't have the time to go to another place for it. I wanted everything to be done fast, so I could heal fast and go back to training. ... You have to understand, back then you were receiving small money for the fight. You had to have a lot of fights to have money for your life. I was thinking I wanted to fight the next week. I wanted to finish the fight, get stitched up and accept another fight right away.
Carmouche: We went back to the hotel, we tried to find Whataburger -- that was the celebratory meal -- and we left first thing in the morning.
It's crazy, because somebody asked me the other day what it's like now when we run into each other. And I said, "Actually, now that you mention it, I have never ran into her again. Not even in passing."
Shevchenko: That fight gave me a lot of experience. You know, Muay Thai is a noble fight and I had been practicing it for years. There is a certain understanding of how a fight will go. ... But MMA, it's a little bit different. It's not a full street fight, but there are still some details that are different. That kick, for example, it was unexpected because I didn't think a kick could land from that position.
It made me a better fighter, and the fact we're going to have a new fight with Liz, who I think is a very good fighter, it's good. It's going to be a good fight.