Gina Joy Carano (born April 16, 1982) is an American actress, television personality, fitness model, and former mixed martial artist.
Carano began her training with straight Muay Thai to competitive MMA, where she competed in Strikeforce and EliteXC. She was featured in ESPN The Magazine as well as Maxim. Her popularity led to her being called the “face of women’s MMA” (although Carano herself rejected the title) and was ranked 5th on a list of the “Top 10 Influential Women” of 2008. In August 2009, Carano fought Cris Cyborg in Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg, the first time two women headlined a major MMA event; Santos won. Carano compiled a competitive record of 12–1–1 in Muay Thai and a 7–1 in women’s MMA.
Outside the ring, Carano performed as Crush in the revamped 2008 television series American Gladiators. Carano has pursued a career in acting since she retired from competition. Her film debut was in Steven Soderbergh‘s 2011 action film Haywire, and she has appeared in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) and Deadpool (2016).
Carano was born in Dallas, Texas, the daughter of Dana Joy (née Cason) and professional football player Glenn Carano. She has two sisters, one older and one younger. She has said that she has a small amount of Italian ancestry. She was raised by her mother after her parents divorced.
Carano graduated from Trinity Christian High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she led the girls’ basketball team to a state title. She also played volleyball and softball. She attended the University of Nevada, Reno for a year and then University of Nevada, Las Vegas for three years, majoring in psychology.
Mixed martial arts career
Carano started her career in the sport of Muay Thai. Her then-boyfriend Kevin Ross, a pro Muay Thai fighter, got her involved. After achieving a Muay Thai record of 12–1–1, Carano received an offer from Jamie Levine to participate in the first-ever sanctioned female MMA bout in Nevada with World Extreme Fighting to fight Leiticia Pestova. She was invited to the World Pro Fighting show in Las Vegas to fight Rosi Sexton. Carano won the fight by knocking out Sexton late in the second round.
Carano faced Elaina Maxwell at Strikeforce: Triple Threat on December 8, 2006. She won the fight via unanimous decision. Carano proved critics wrong when she defeated Maxwell for the second time; the first victory coming in a Muay Thai bout. The fight was the first female fight in Strikeforce.
She fought on the February 10, 2007, Showtime EliteXC card, defeating Julie Kedzie via unanimous decision in what was called the “Fight of the Night.” The fight was the first televised female fight on Showtime.
Her scheduled bout against Jan Finney at the EliteXC/K-1 Dynamite!! USA event on June 2, 2007 was canceled due to illness. The Fight Network and other news outlets reported that she was rushed to the hospital via ambulance due to dehydration while attending a World Extreme Cagefighting event as a spectator.
Carano fought on the September 15, 2007, Showtime EliteXC card, where she defeated Tonya Evinger via rear naked choke for her first career win by submission. Carano impressed critics by holding her own on the ground before submitting Evinger late in the first round.
Carano defeated former HOOKnSHOOT Champion Kaitlin Young at EliteXC: Primetime on May 31, 2008. A day before the fight, Carano failed to make weight for her fight after weighing in at 144.5 lb (65.5 kg). Although most MMA organizations set weight classes at 135 (bantamweight) and 145 (featherweight) pounds (61.2 and 65.8 kg, respectively), EliteXC opted to create a women’s weight class at 140 pounds. Carano agreed to forfeit 12.5% of her “show” purse to Young, and the fight remained on the card.
Leading up to her fight against Kelly Kobold, there was much controversy over whether or not Carano would make weight for the fight, as she had fought only once in the past year and had failed to make weight. Carano assured critics that she would be able to make weight since she had hired a nutritionist to help with her dieting. At the weigh-in for the Kobold fight on October 3, 2008, Carano weighed in at 142.75 pounds on her first attempt. After removing her sports bra, a towel-covered Carano weighed in a second time at 142.5 pounds. On her third attempt, without any clothes on, Carano weighed 141 pounds and successfully made weight.
Early on, Kobold was intent on pressing Carano in the clinch, while working for the takedown throughout the fight. Kobold managed a takedown in the second round, but the round ended before she could take meaningful advantage of it. Carano worked her opportunities by hitting Kobold at every turn whenever the fighters separated, while opening a huge gash on the inside of her opponent’s eyebrow in the first round. At the end of the third round, Carano looked to finish the fight as she unloaded a head kick that landed flush on Kobold’s chin, but Kobold remained on her feet and the bout came to a close.
Carano won by unanimous decision (29–28, 30–27, 30–27) and remained undefeated in MMA until her first and only professional loss to Cris Cyborg in August 2009 at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg.
Strikeforce Women’s Lightweight Championship bout
After Strikeforce purchased the assets of ProElite, Carano, along with other fighters within the defunct promotion, became contractually linked with Strikeforce after many months of a stalemate regarding their free agent status.
It was announced at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields that Carano’s fight against Cris Cyborg would take place on August 15, 2009, at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg. Strikeforce created their first Women’s Championship for the bout.
Though the 145-pound division is most commonly referred to as featherweight, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated that the title would be known as the Strikeforce Women’s Lightweight Championship. The title was later renamed the Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight Championship.
Carano lost the fight against Cyborg by TKO at 4:59 in the first round, giving her first ever loss in her professional MMA career.
Carano has not fought since August 2009 and has not been scheduled for any upcoming events. Gina is still under contract with the UFC through her old Strikeforce contract and has four fights remaining on that contract.
In November 2010, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated he was hopeful that she would return in 2011. Carano’s return was formally announced in February 2011, and Strikeforce announced at its April 9, 2011, event in San Diego that Carano would make her return against Sarah D’Alelio on June 18, during the Overeem vs. Werdum Strikeforce event in Dallas. This bout would have been held by Zuffa, who have been detractors of women’s MMA in the past. Critics asserted that the reason for the turnaround was Carano’s marketability.
However, the fight did not take place. Initially Strikeforce announced Carano failed her pre-fight medical examination and the fight was pulled from the card. Later, it became public that Carano was medically cleared by the Athletic Commission but was removed from the card for other reasons.
In April 2014 during an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show Carano said she was considering a return to MMA. In September 2014 Dana White of the UFC said contract negotiations with Carano had stalled. During her appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience 690 podcast, Ronda Rousey said a fight between Gina Carano and herself had been planned for December 2014, but never materialized.
Television and film career
Carano starred in the 2006 cult film Ring Girls. Based on true events, Ring Girls is a fast-paced story about five American women from Las Vegas who take on the ultimate challenge of fighting the best Muay Thai fighters in the world.
Along with Lisa King, Carano served as a mentor to aspiring fighters in the 2007 Oxygen reality series Fight Girls. She appeared as “Crush” on the NBC show American Gladiators, in which she starred in the workout video of the show along with Monica Carlson (Jet), Jennifer Widerstrom (Phoenix), Michael O’Hearn (Titan), Tanoai Reed (Toa) and Don “Hollywood” Yates (Wolf). The DVD was released on December 16, 2008.
She appeared in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 as Natasha, a purchasable hero unit, portraying the Soviet sniper/commando in various cut scenes. She is featured in the Michael Jai White film Blood and Bone (2009).
In September 2009, Carano landed the leading role in the spy thriller movie Haywire (2011), directed by Steven Soderbergh. Christy Lemire of The Associated Press stated: “[Carano’s] dialogue delivery may seem a bit stiff — and she has acknowledged that Soderbergh made some tweaks to her voice in post-production — but she has tremendous presence: an intriguing mix of muscular power and eye-catching femininity”. She describes her knockout fight with co-star Michael Fassbender:
||We were brutal to each other. He was slamming me into the wall. He slammed my head so hard, I lost it for a second — I went white. And at one point, our knees clashed, he got a limp.
She also revealed that the Oscar-nominated actor kissed her unprompted on the first day on set.
In February 2012, Carano was cast in In the Blood, an action thriller directed by John Stockwell. The film is set in motion when a husband disappears while vacationing in the Caribbean with his wife, played by Carano. The grieving wife passionately and recklessly pursues the men whom she believes kidnapped and killed him. Stockwell stated, “This role will showcase not only Gina’s fighting skills, but also her acting abilities as her character struggles to [rein] in her violent past.”
In September 2012, Carano signed on as the lead in an all-female ensemble action film described as the female version of The Expendables. Producer Adi Shankar said, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to make a movie that is supposed to be the female version of The Expendables without Gina Carano in it. It would be like making Twix without caramel or Jamba Juice without jamba.”
Carano co-starred in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) as a member of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent Luke Hobbs’ (Dwayne Johnson) team. While the film received mixed reviews, movie critics were united in their praise of Carano’s performance. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Gina Carano is BIG fun to watch. [She] is still a bit stilted with her line readings, but her two fight scenes with Michelle Rodriguez are just epic.” Matt Goldberg of Collider.com wrote that the scene would “create a lot of new Gina Carano fans.”
In July 2013, she and comic book creator Rob Liefeld announced they were working on a big-screen adaptation of Liefied’s Avengelyne in which Carano would star as a fallen angel, who is sent to Earth with a mission to find and protect ‘the one’, a person who holds the key to saving mankind from demons and other monsters.
Carano appeared in the 2013–2014 Fox series Almost Human episode “Unbound”, where she played the part of an XRN combat android named Danica. She co-starred in the 2015 film Extraction, and she played Angel Dust in the 2016 film Deadpool.
She was profiled in a feature story for the ESPN series E:60. She was voted “Hottest Woman In America” by Big Biz Magazine in the Spring 2008 issue On May 13, 2008, “Gina Carano” was the fastest-rising search on Google and third-most-searched person on Yahoo!. She was also ranked as no. 5 on the “Top Ten Influential Women of 2008” list on Yahoo!
In May 2009, it was announced that Carano was ranked no. 16 in Maxim‘s Hot 100 list. She is one of the cover athletes along with Serena Williams for the October 19, 2009 edition of ESPN The Magazine‘s Body Issue.
In April 2012, she became the first recipient of ActionFest‘s Chuck Norris (Best Female Action Star) Award, given to the female action star of the year.
In addition to being a nominee for the 2013 Critics Choice Awards for best actress in an action movie for Haywire, Carano was a top 10 most-searched athlete on Yahoo! that year.
- 2012 AOCA / Awakening Outstanding Contribution Award
- 2012 ActionFest Film Festival, Chick Norris Award for Best Female Action Star
Mixed martial arts record
|Professional record breakdown
||Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg
||000000002009-08-15-0000August 15, 2009
||San Jose, California, United States
||For the Women’s Featherweight Championship
||000000002008-10-04-0000October 4, 2008
||Sunrise, Florida, United States
||TKO (doctor stoppage)
||000000002008-05-31-0000May 31, 2008
||Newark, New Jersey, United States
||144 lb Catchweight
||Submission (rear-naked choke)
||000000002007-09-15-0000September 15, 2007
||Oahu, Hawaii, United States
||141 lb Catchweight
||000000002007-02-10-0000February 10, 2007
||Southaven, Mississippi, United States
||141 lb Catchweight
||Strikeforce: Triple Threat
||000000002006-12-08-0000December 8, 2006
||San Jose, California, United States
||World Pro Fighting Championships 1
||000000002006-09-15-0000September 15, 2006
||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
||138 lb Catchweight
||KO (punches and elbows)
||World Extreme Fighting
||000000002006-06-10-0000June 10, 2006
||Las Vegas, Nevada, United States