After years of speculation, innuendo and an April Fool’s Day joke that had many (namely me) looking and feeling like
MMA fans were growing restless from the endless “will she or won’t she?” rhetoric surrounding Gina Carano’s potential return to the cage after a deep 4 year hiatus.
It was like 2 parts of this…
Mixed with a pinch of this…
Resulting in an ass-load of this…
As even her most die-hard fans began to lose faith, that faint glimmer of hope fading from their eyes like Gina’s MMA career at the hands of Cristine “Juice? Nah – I really am a Cyborg” Santos, Ms. Carano went and did this:
After checking the web to confirm that, this really happened (because who really knew that Arsenio Hall still had a show?), and the rest of my face hadn’t just gotten trolled off, all I have to say, is
To many others, however, the question remains, “What’s to be gained from this?”
In recent history, UFC “face” Dana White has let it be known that he would welcome Carano back into the cage, should she want to fight again. And let’s face it, he’d be pretty foolish not to abide. The UFC is in desperate need of star power at the moment. Wunderkind Anderson Silva appears to be chilling at the bar next to Mike Tyson and Tiger Woods, reminiscing about the days when they were invincible, after back-to-back beat downs at the hands of Chris Weidman. George St. Pierre is taking an extended vacation after being diced and pulped by new Welterweight champ Jonny “Big Rig” Hendricks, and there seems to be no real threat to Jon Jones’ belt (although who wouldn’t pay big bucks to see him fight Alexander Gustaffson again?), the UFC would be able to generate a lot of buzz from a Carano comeback. From UFC’s perspective, it is a no-brainer.
But what about Carano, whose last fight ended on the wrong end of a TKO stoppage with mere seconds left in the first round some four years ago? What would she have to gain from a return to the cage, given the fact that she’s achieved a modest acting career? Roles in Fast & Furious 6, the upstart television series Almost Human, as well as a starring role (alongside A-listers such as Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor) in the underrated action thriller Haywire, have set up Carano with a foundation to potentially have a long and successful acting career. So why interrupt that momentum by putting that face directly in the path of hammer fists and knees aimed at rearranging it?
One respected poster on the FAM message board put it bluntly when he said he didn’t want to see her come back just to get her ass whipped by UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion, Rhonda “I will eat your face” Rousey. On the surface, he has a point. After all:
• She hasn’t fought in years.
• She hasn’t trained to fight and probably isn’t in “fight shape”.
• She can’t still be hungry after tasting Hollywood glitz and glamour.
• This must just be a publicity stunt.
• Rousey will literally break her arm off – how will she act with only one arm?
• She’ll never make weight.
• She never even won a title or was really that good in the first place.
• She’s too old.
These are the same doubts that were forced upon Rocky when he made his comeback to avenge the death of his mentor, best friend, and brother, Apollo Creed. They said it was over. They said Drago wasn’t a man, he was a machine. They called it suicide. Even Adrienne stuck the proverbial knife in his heart, when she damned him with those fatal words, “You can’t win!”.
But rather than accept defeat, Rocky did what any proud champion would do – he took a drive and did some soul searching, montage style.
Is Carano Rocky? Of course not. And let’s not jinx it, “sitting down” with White to “discuss” a “potential” return after 4 years isn’t exactly the same as being in the cage. There’s a bit of a road left to travel to get from where we are today to there, no doubt. But for those detractors out there, of which there are many…
First and foremost, we want to see our favorite performers performing. We are fans of sport, and while Gina looks great up on the big screen, she is a fighter and gives fight fans very little in terms of quenching their thirst if she’s not inside of the cage competing. We should want this to happen, because it would generate buzz for the sport, it would drive debate, and it would give us potential fights to look forward to. If you are an MMA fan, or if you are a fan of Carano, this should be welcoming news.
Should we expect that, after a four year layoff, Carano should get a title fight? Absolutely not. She lost her last fight and hasn’t yet earned a shot at the Champ. And she shouldn’t want one, at least right off the bat. If she is legitimately hungry to fight again and do well in the cage, an immediate bout against Rousey would be a terrible decision, from her standpoint as well as the UFC’s. So let’s pump the breaks on the “but she can’t beat Rousey” talk, at least until a fight between them is made. IF this comeback happens, and a fight with Rousey is immediately announced, then view it as a quick payday for Carano, a chance to get the fighting bug out of her system, a chance to see if she can compete with the best, and an opportunity for the UFC to generate a little life into their ratings. However, until that happens, give it a chance.
“But she’s too old!” Carano is 31. In contrast, Rousey is 27, Santos 28. Shayna Baszler is 33, Liz Carmouche is 30, and Alexis Davis is 29. She’s still in her prime, in terms of that age window where she can still compete at a high level without losing speed or power due to age related weakness.
“Yeah, well she hasn’t trained in years.” To be fair, while we can assume that she hasn’t been training to fight per se, but I think it’s safe to say that she likely has kept up a rigorous workout and training schedule. Her movie roles have largely been physically demanding, and it’s not as if she has just let herself go. I think we can also surmise that IF she were to make a commitment to get back into the cage, she would work with some of the best trainers in the world, and would not take too long to return to “fight shape”. She will be rusty, sure, but it’s not as if she has forgotten how to fight.
“She’ll never make 135lbs, so this is all a waste of time.” She has struggled to make weight in the past, but let’s be real here. The UFC will find a way to make her fights happen, as long as she shows a commitment and performs well. The UFC knows this, she knows this, and we know this. Either the UFC would create a new division, or she will just have to work that much harder to get down, but it will happen, if they want it to.
“Ok, but her last fight proved that she’s just not that good.” There’s no way around it – Carano got beat up by Cyborg Santos. I won’t even bother pointing out the fact that, per her wiki page, following a 16 second TKO over Hiroko Yamanaka, Cyborg tested positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.
But no excuses, right? That was nearly 2 years after her fight with Carano, and there’s no proof that she was jacked up during their fight. Carano wasn’t able to match Cyborg’s intensity, power, or speed, and despite going toe-to-toe with the beast, including having full mount on a couple of occasions, she ended up covering up and absorbing too many punches, and it is what it is. In fact, here it is, judge for yourself:
The bottom line is this: on that night, Carano ran into a stronger, faster, more intense fighter, whether it was due to superior skill or steroids. She lost, period. But to imply that she isn’t a good fighter because of it is absurd. In the 3 years prior to the Cyborg fight, Carano held a 7-0 professional MMA record, and also holds a 12-1 professional kickboxing record. Some choose to look at her as a good looking woman who fights, whereas the truth is that she is a fighter who happens to be a good looking woman.
Carano and White might sit down and realize that there isn’t actually a deal here to be made, and this could all be for naught. It appears as if Carano wants to jump off of the teeter-totter, and either get back onto the cage, or close that door for good. As both a fan of MMA as well as Carano herself, I hope they can work it out. If she comes back and loses, well at least she made a run, and there’s no shame in losing as long as she gives it her all. If she comes back and wins … well… we can all look forward to much more of this…
I’d say that qualifies as a “win-win”, wouldn’t you?