Gina Carano has returned to professional mixed martial arts, agreeing on (the DAY, not today) to a multi-fight contract with UFC President Dana White to join The Ultimate Fighting Championship, a move that provides a major boost to the already popular women’s bantamweight division.
The signing of Carano capped several months of negotiations with one of MMA’s most recognizable stars, who famously left the sport five years ago to pursue an acting career.
Already, the addition of Carano in the UFC ranks puts her on a course to fight UFC woman’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, arguably UFC’s most popular and dominant fighter. White said last week before UFC Fight Night Dublin: McGregor vs. Brando that Carano would likely make her UFC debut against Rousey in early December. “She’s the one who started this whole women’s MMA craze and Ronda wants to fight her,” White told reporters. “Ronda has done everything we’ve asked her to do. This is like a GSP (Georges St-Pierre) situation when GSP asked us for (Nick) Diaz. How would I say no to GSP? Ronda wants this fight bad. Gina wants to fight bad, too.” Carano, 32, won her first seven fights of her pro MMA career, the last coming in a unanimous decision against Kelly Kobold in October 2008. She hasn’t fought since a first-round defeat Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino in August 2009. “She did a really good job against Cyborg and Cyborg was a little jacked up on Mountain Dew on that fight,” White said of Carano’s first-round TKO loss. The “Mountain Dew” jab by White was in reference to the fact Justino tested positive for the steroid stanozolol after a first-round TKO victory against Hiroko Yamanaka in December 2011. Justino’s victory was turned into a “no contest” and she received a one-year ban by California State Athletic Commission. Carano turned her focus to acting after the bout. Her credits include “Fast & Furious 6,” “Haywire” and “In the Blood.” Even though she’s had a prolonged absence from fighting, White said Carano has been training the entire time. “She obviously hasn’t been training like she would for fights, but she’s been training,” White said. “She looks great.”
White added the Carano shouldn't have any issues making the 135-point bantamweight requirement; Carano had issues meeting a 140-pound weight limit earlier in her career. The addition of Carano not only gives the women’s bantamweight division some appeal from a name-recognition standpoint, it gives Rousey a new challenger in a division she’s reigned since its debut last year. Rousey is 10-0 as a pro and has won each of her first four UFC fights via stoppages. Rousey needed all of 16 seconds to knock out Alexis Davis at UFC 175 earlier this month. “Is (Carano) going to be any lees competitive than any of the girls she’s fought?” White asked rhetorically. “Look at Alexis Davis. Alexis Davis is awesome. Sixteen seconds. Do you think Carano will be less competitive than that?” Rousey needed nine stitches in her right hand and broke her thumb in the brief bout. Rousey skipped the ESPY Awards last week, where she won the Best Female Athlete, to undergo a minor knee operation.