Before she became a Hollywood movie star, rubbing elbows with a couple of A-list actors in her upcoming "Haywire" feature film, female fighting sensation Gina Carano was "the face of women's MMA," as well as the top Strikeforce contender in the ladies' 145-pound division.
Until the day she ran headfirst into a Brazilian roadblock named Cristiane Santos.
"Cyborg" stopped the former American Gladiator via first round technical knockout, in a lopsided affair that was enough to keep Carano out of the fight game since the crushing loss way back in Aug. 2009.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
That's because Carano has since embarked on a prosperous new endeavor, and early Haywire reviews indicate her "Conviction" could lead her to even bigger and better opportunities inside Tinseltown.
And best of all, it doesn't require getting punched in the face.
In her absence, Santos went on a path of destruction, laying waste to her division and violently finishing her next three opponents. In the process, she may have also finished herself, as a post-fight drug test for her Dec. 17, 2011, fight against Hiroko Yamanaka came back dirty.
"Cyborg" tested positive for steroids.
But was it an isolated incident? Or was Santos simple doing a more effective job of masking her
abuse use in previous fights, including the one against Carano?
Here's what Gina told our own Tommy Myers in a recent conversation with MMAmania.com:
"I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't hurt by the whole thing. That fight with her was definitely the biggest moment of my mixed martial arts (MMA) career and at that time I had people around me telling me she was on steroids and everything. But, if there was a chance that she wasn't, I never wanted to take anything away from her [win]. She is a wonderful athlete, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting a little. In fact, I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing that. But, at the same time, she's a human being and a phenomenal athlete, so maybe someone around her was telling her she needed to do that when she really didn't. Maybe it was someone around her telling her the wrong things, I don't know. I kind of feel bad for her. Like I said, I could have definitely gone without hearing that because it makes me think well, you know, she just got caught with it this time, but what about all the other times? It's a bummer. I do feel bad to even have to say that, but I have to be honest: It really stung. It was the biggest moment in my life at the time. Then again, everything happens for a reason. After that I got to go through this beautiful experience making 'Haywire,' but even still, it stings."
Carano flirted with the idea of coming back to combat sports and even went so far as to book herself in a return fight against Sarah D'Alelio last June; however, she was subsequently forced off the card for undisclosed medical reasons.
Like her former rival, Santos will also be taking time off from the fight game. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) suspended her license for one year and reversed her most recent Strikeforce win over Yamanaka to a "no contest."
Just over two years ago, Carano and Santos went head-to-head, with "Cyborg" coming out on top. Now, in 2012, the pair once again share the headlines, although this time, it's "Conviction" who proves victorious.
In fact, it's no contest.
For more on the upcoming Haywire movie, hitting theaters on Jan. 20, 2012, click here and here.