Gina Joy Carano was born under a tornado warning in Dallas, Texas to parents Glenn and Dana Carano. Her father played for the Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys as a backup quarterback for Roger Staubach and Danny White from 1977-1983. In 1984 he was the starting quarterback for the USFL Pittsburgh Maulers. Gina's parents divorced when she was a child but her father remained involved in her upbringing and is her biggest fan. She has stated that her family has a "small percentage" of Italian ancestry. The middle child of three close-knit girls -- Casey being a year older and Christie, the youngest -- Gina is their self-proclaimed bodyguard and highly protective of them. All three girls were star athletes in high school. Growing up in Las Vegas, Gina -- a natural born athlete and rambunctious tomboy -- studied gymnastics, jazz, tap, ballet, rode horses, whooped up on her male cousins for fun at family gatherings, and wrestled and played football with the neighborhood boys.
She graduated from Trinity Christian High School in Las Vegas, Nevada where she excelled on the volleyball, softball and basketball teams -- the latter she helped secure a state title. Her collegiate studies include the University of Nevada, Reno -- she attended one year -- And the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for three where she was offered positions on both the softball and basketball teams. Her academic goal was a degree in psychology, but with only a few credits remaining she dropped everything in order to help her older sister, through a crisis.
At the age of 21 Gina began training in Muay Thai, a form of Kickboxing, with Master Toddy at the suggestion of then boyfriend Kevin Ross. In pursuit of a life-changing experience, he ended up at a local Las Vegas Muay Thai Gym and she tagged along. A trainer approached her telling her point blank that she was fat and needed to lose weight -- She weighed around 175 lbs. and had no direction at that point in her life. She began training and became addicted. Master Toddy saw potential in the way Gina handled herself. She took naturally to fighting with strong punches, deadly elbows and knees, a impressive overhand right and rib-cracking hard kicks. Immersing herself completely in the sport, she advanced quickly. Months later she found herself in a "fight club" situation where she took on any female fighter plopped down in front of her. Since then she hasn't looked back.
Initially, because of her pretty face, spectators refused to take her seriously as a fighter. It is a bias that will haunt her throughout her fighting career. Gina, who is openly laughed at, insulted and ridiculed in front of crowds before fights, realizes she will have to cowgirl up in order to silence her taunters and she lets her fists do the talking. Her Muay Thai career is comprised of an impressive 12 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw and she becomes the first American woman to win a title in Thailand. The 2005 cult film "Ring Girls" follows Gina and her trainer, Master Toddy during her early Muay Thai career. Because of her beauty, spunk and tenacity she develops a significant fan following.
In June 2006, Gina's success in Muay Thai brings her to the attention of Jamie Levine of World Extreme Fighting in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. He offers her a fight against Leiticia Pestova who holds a MMA record of 11 wins and 2 losses. It is to be the first-ever sanctioned female MMA bout in the state of Nevada. Levine is impressed with Gina's statuesque size. Standing at 5'8" and 155 lbs., which is the starting weight class for men, she isn't a frail little girl and has power in her kicks comparable to a man. Still in its infancy, and because of its vicious nature, a lot of people were teetering on the fence about women fighting in MMA. Levine believed gender didn't matter and he wanted to give the two women a nationwide platform to show what they could do. Gina, under the moniker "Conviction", trained relentlessly for the history-making bout, weighing in at a muscular 135 pounds. She does not disappoint her fans, winning the fight in explosive ground-and-pound action in the 38th second of the first round.
Critics begin to whine that Gina is receiving preferential treatment based on her striking good looks and that her talents as a fighter are less than stellar. She uses these criticisms as fuel for her next bout against British fighter Rosi Sexton.
September 15, 2006 -- Sexton, a cerebral fighter with a mathematics degree from Cambridge and over 10 years of martial arts experience, possesses a 6-0 MMA record. Many believe Carano will go down in flames but, with six seconds left to go in the second round, Gina knocks Sexton out with a jaw dropping and show stopping overhand right.
December 2006 -- She faces Elaina Maxwell. It is the second time the two have faced each other, the first time being in a Muay Thai bout. The fight goes 3 rounds and showcases Gina's powerful overhand right and improved grappling skills. She wins the unanimous decision.
February 10, 2007 -- In what is billed the "Fight of the Night" and the first televised female fight on Showtime, she faces Julie Kedzie. Kedzie, who was once arrested with a group of 300 nuns at a protest, is a feisty brawler known for overpowering her opponents in the clench. She has a record of 8 wins and 4 losses. The exciting fight, an amazing stand-up brawl, goes the distance with Gina knocking Kedzie flat at the end of the second round. Kedzie, a scrappy fighter, refused to give in, taking Carano down in the third round in a submission attempt. Carano rallied, winning the unanimous decision. The appreciative crowd gave both fighters a roaring standing ovation. Julie and Gina became training partners and good friends and remain so to this day.
Gina's popularity skyrockets and she is crowned "The Face of Women's MMA" a title she doesn't particularly care for since it detracts from other women in the sport. Her image is everywhere. Critics, some of them other female fighters, complain that she is using sex appeal to further her career -- that she is compensating for something she is lacking in the ring -- that what she is doing is disrespectful to the sport -- But fans can't get enough of the imposing brunette. Men fall in love with her. Little girls and women find her an inspirational combination of beauty, strength and power. Everyone is taken in by her shy smile and laid back, good-natured personality. Gina, who believes the image of a powerful, feminine woman is something to be celebrated, is baffled by the criticisms and humbled by the attention and support from her fans.
She wins her next two fights -- In September 2007 against Tonya Evinger, a wrestling champion, via rear naked choke -- Gina's first submission -- and in May 2008 against Kaitlin Young although Gina had to forfeit a little over 12% of the purse to keep the fight on the card. She failed to make EliteXC's newly created 140 lb. weight class. Most MMA organizations have the featherweight division at 145 lbs. (65.8 kg.) Coming into the fight with only a three-week training camp, Carano weighed in at 144.5 lbs. (65.5 kg.) In spite of everyone's dire predictions, she dominates and the fight is stopped at the end of the second round. Gina wins by TKO.
June 2008. More criticism : A sportswriter reporting on the Carano vs. Young fight voices his suspicion that Gina's opponents must be handpicked to make sure of the outcome and that she is too pretty to fight. He finds women fighting in the MMA an unpleasant experience but concludes that she is quite the asset.
2008 -- Gina reluctantly joins the cast of "American Gladiators". She has reservations about running around in itty-bitty superhero spandex, but the show's producers pursue her and finally convince her to sign on. She becomes known as "Crush" and cultivates a whole new fan base. She also appears as "Natasha", a Soviet Commando and Sniper, in the video game "Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3". MMA Legend Randy Couture, who Gina trains with, also appears. Critics are oddly silent on Couture 'going Hollywood', using his sex appeal, or being 'too pretty' to be in the video game.
October 2008 -- Gina causes an unintentional frenzy at the weigh-in for the fight against Kelly Kobold. She has only fought once in the past year and there is speculation that she will not be able to make weight. Gina hired a nutritionist to help with her diet, but at the weigh-in she fails to make weight on her first two attempts. Gina, who has stated she will never pose naked for "Playboy" or any publication, boldly strips off all her clothes for the third attempt. Photographers shove and trip over each other trying to obtain the Holy Grail of photos -- A bare naked Gina Carano. Severely dehydrated and towel-shielded from the cameras, she successfully makes weight at 141 pounds. Her father is one of the men holding up towels.
October 5, 2008 -- With a 16-2-1 record, 6 wins by knockout and 8 by submission, Kelly Kobold vows to make Gina Carano the broken, bruised and bloodied face of MMA, instead it is Gina who bloodies Kobold's face with a severe gash over the right eye. Gina unleashes killer kicks and knees and wins the fight. She remains undefeated and lovingly dedicates the win to her grandfather.
2009 -- She and fellow MMA athletes Kimbo Slice and Maurice Smith dabble in the Hollywood scene with small but memorable cameos in the Michael Jai White film "Blood & Bone". Gina also appears on the cover of "ESPN The Magazine - The Body Issue". Posing mostly topless she shows off an impressive set of abdominals, amazing legs and invokes more criticism.
August 15, 2009 -- Gina makes history again by becoming the first female fighter to earn $100,000 for a fight. She faces Brazilian Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos in the first Women's Championship. The championship is scheduled for 5 rounds, each lasting 5 minutes -- Another first. In a hard fought battle, she loses in a heartbreaker by TKO at the bell at the end of the first round. But on January 6, 2012, revelations come to light. The California State Athletic Commission announced that Santos had tested positive for steroids after a December 2011 fight. It throws suspicion on the legitimacy of all of Cyborg's wins, including her win against Gina. Santos is suspended for one year, receiving a $2,500 fine. Gina, though hurt and disappointed, remains gracious and supportive of her sister fighter.
A Carano vs. Santos rematch would be a huge MMA event but it is unlikely that Gina will ever return to the sport that made her a superstar. Classified by the Unified Women's MMA Rankings as the third best 145 lb (66 kg.) female fighter in the world, her current MMA record stands at 7 wins and 1 loss.
It was after that devastating loss, black eye and all, that a deflated Gina met with Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh for lunch in San Diego. He had seen her fight earlier on CBS and dreamed of building a film around her. Immediately he was struck with her presence and intriguing mix of muscular power and eye-catching femininity. Inspired, he wrote the role of Mallory Kane specifically for her although she is nothing like the unsmiling, structured, alpha female character. Soderbergh assembled an impressive cast and all heaped praise on the fighter and aspiring actress -- Channing Tatum, a huge fan of Gina's and the MMA, immediately signed on when he learned she was involved in the project. Ewen McGregor, having no clue who Gina Carano was, studied many of her fights on YouTube. Initially horrified by the violence of the sport, he with met with her and was taken with how quiet, gentle and thoughtful she was out of the ring. He recalls hurting his hand when he accidentally punched Gina in the head during the film's final climatic fight scene. Gina, completely unaffected by the punch and worried she had injured the actor, immediately popped to her feet and asked if he was okay. Antonio Banderas found Gina to be beautiful, natural and real and believes she has a career in front of her. Michael Fassbender, who Gina now considers a mentor, thought her extraordinary and was impressed with her work ethic. Michael Douglas, who topped out the A-list cast, heralded Gina's self-control.
Gina is proud to have been a pioneer in Women's MMA, for kicking down barriers and inspiring and paving the way for the next wave of female fighters. She recently joined the 87Eleven Stunt team, the same team that propelled her to star status with their work on "Haywire". With upcoming film projects like "Fast & Furious 6", "In The Blood" and rumors of "Wonder Woman" flying around, Gina Carano has found her niche in the Action Heroine film market. Her newest challenge as an athlete -- To cross over into film successfully.
Muay Thai Record is 12-1-1 Wins/Lost/Draw. MMA Record is 7-1-0.
Defeated Kaitlin Young on May 31st, 2008 to achieve a 6-0-0 MMA record.
Defeated Kelly Kobold October 4, 2008 to achieve a 7-0-0 record.
Defeated by Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos on August 15, 2009 in the inaugural bout for the Strikeforce Women's Championship. Her current record is 7-1-0.
Her number one movie star crush is on the late Paul Newman.
In April of 2012 received the first Chick Norris Award for best female action star for her performance in the film "Haywire". The award was presented at the ActionFest Film Festival in Asheville, N.C. and recognizes a female star who exhibits "the attitude, spirit, athleticism and grit of Hollywood legend Chuck Norris." Carano called the award, "an incredible honor.".
She is one of the cover athletes along with Serena Williams for the October 19, 2009 edition of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue. Carano and Williams are two of the athletes featured in a book by Dana Rasmussen.
In May 2009, Carano was ranked #16 in Maxim's Hot 100 list.
She was ranked as #5 on the "Top Ten Influential Women of 2008" list on Yahoo!.
She was profiled in a feature story for the ESPN series E:60 and 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!.
Carano started her career in the sport of Muay Thai. She credits ex-boyfriend Kevin Ross, a pro Muay Thai fighter, for getting 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 won the fight with a knockout in the first round.
Carano served as a mentor to aspiring female fighters in the Oxygen reality series "Fight Girls".
She is formerly the third best 145 lb (66 kg) female fighter in the world, according to the Unified Women's MMA Rankings.
She has been referred to as "The Face of Women's MMA" (Mixed Martial Arts).
In the movie "Haywire", Gina sports a green hoodie embroidered with the same name as her high school alma mater - Trinity.
She is literally a living doll. "Round 5 World of MMA" came out with a Gina Carano action figure in its "Champions of the UFC - Series 4".
She appeared on the television show "Sport Science" where she choked out host John Brenkus. This has led to many fans requesting photos with Gina clenching them in the Rear Naked Choke Hold. With the help of electronic monitoring it was determined that Gina's punches landed with 650 lbs. of force, her knees with 550 lbs. and her kicks at 800 lbs. for a combined force of 4,800 lbs. She landed all 8 blows in 3 seconds.
In December 2012 she was nominated for Best Actress in an Action Film by the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) for her role as Mallory Kane in "Haywire".
[on dating] When you meet a guy the question goes through your head whether you can beat him up or not and I think that's an instant attraction. You know, if they can't take you then I don't think they're interested.
[on her one MMA loss to Cris Cyborg in August 2009] I wanted so badly to do so well for so many people. I wanted to do so much in that fight and I think I had an adrenaline dump or I just wasn't myself and I think a lot of people saw that, which kind of throws you off. You feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. I trained so hard for that fight. I was in the best shape I've ever been in. It was kind of devastating.
[on her MMA career] I have gotten some of the most beautiful experiences that a person can possibly ask for so I'm not at all complaining. I got pushed out fast and I got to pave a beautiful way and there's a lot of great female MMA fighters out there right now and there will be more in the future and I've absolutely adored being one of those people that's helped that out.
[on the movie Haywire and director Steven Soderbergh] He saw me fighting, doing something that I loved -- that I still love. And he wanted to give me an opportunity. He wrote it for me with the idea in mind that it (Mallory Kane) would be a character close to me, that I could understand. But it ends up being not a character that I understood at all because she's organized and she's strict and she's an alpha female and I'm nothing like that.
[on the criticism that Female Fighters can advance their careers on looks more than talent] There's all sorts of different types of people. I think everybody's special. Of course the media wants to focus on 'sex sells' but I'm just not a believer in that. But I'm not afraid to take a nice sexy photo either. I'm okay with that. I'm not trying to run from being female. I think this world is moving past 'sex sells' a lot. I think we're getting to the point to where you have to look deeper into a person. Or maybe that's just me hoping.
[on Cris Cyborg testing positive for a banned substance] It hurt a little bit. That was my most important MMA moment and so I can't lie that it didn't sting. At the same time, she's a phenomenal athlete and whoever is around her telling her that she needs that is wrong. She doesn't need that. She'll be phenomenal without that. She has a bad time ahead of her. She's off for a year now. That's an emotional thing where you have to earn people's trust back in a way. I'm not rejoicing in it at all. I'm hurt but at the same time I sympathize with her and I know that she's great, one of the best female athletes that we've had in the sport. She'll come back.
I've done a *@$#load of work and pain and barriers that I've broken down so far. I'm making a career for myself and I'm doing the best I can. I'm not ashamed of anything I've done.
My first fight. I fought a girl that was a little bit heavier, a little bit more experienced and I was petrified because I didn't know what I was getting myself into. And I did really well against her and nobody believed it was my first fight. So I was like -- Damn! Okay! Here we go! I'm good at something! It just happens to be fighting. Go figure.
I walked into the gym and this little Thai man walked up to me and said, "Oh baby, you fat. You need to lose weight." I was chubby. I really needed to get back into shape and I started training with him, the same guy that called me fat.
[on how fighting is comparable to sex] It's a very real interaction between two human beings. It's like an energy that nobody else is going to share.
I know I don't look like all these other women. I know I don't look like the skinny slender model. I know I look a little different but people like to watch me for some reason. It feels good and I'm humbled by it.
I can't drive how I fight anymore because I almost got my license suspended. I'm two points away from getting my license suspended because cops never let me go for some reason. I was going 126 but I'm a really good driver at 126 and that's the thing. It's not really reckless if you're in control, right?
It's a very big deal to me to remain the same person because I know all of this is going to be gone one day and I'm just going to have myself.
A perfect date for me is beach, wine and laughter -- Flirtatious sexual energy.
MMA and fighting is not something you can really fake. When you're in a fight it's kind of easier to see a person for who they really are. I'm in the sport because I love it and I'm not trying to get famous. I do fight because I want to.
I've been like seriously laughed at, to the point where they're just looking at me up and down and like, laughing at you in front of crowds. And I just stood there. And that is probably the worst thing to do with me I realized because I've never punched somebody so hard in my life. - On people not taking her seriously as a fighter because of her looks.
[on how she began training in Muay Thai] I was dating somebody who loved Bruce Lee. One day we were drinking 40s of Old English and he decided, "Hey, I'm going to lose this girl if I don't clean up my life". And he walked into a gym the next day and became completely sober and is now one of the best Muay Thai guys we have in America. He changed my life just by wanting to be a better person for me.
[on her possible return to the MMA] My last fight wasn't the way I wanted to go so there's a hole there, so I wouldn't count me out.
[on acting] I want to see an athlete cross over correctly and do it well. It's like a challenge to me.
I'm really proud of my sport. I'm really proud to have come from such a beautiful thing. It changes people's lives. It changed mine.
Success and social life is interesting because one part of you wants to stay extremely real and talk to everyone and be friends with everyone. And the next part of you understands that some people don't have the same mind frame.
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