Gina Carano fighting for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was something fight fans had longed for over the years. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition mainly because Carano shifted her focus to her acting career following her knockout loss to Cris Cyborg a decade ago under the Strikeforce banner.
But, Carano fighting inside the world-famous Octagon did almost happen, and it would’ve come against the biggest female mixed martial arts (MMA) star of all-time, Ronda Rousey. According to the former Strikeforce women’s Featherweight queen, the wheels were in motion for her to make her comeback against Rousey after meeting with UFC brass.
During a recent sit-down with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Carano explained the secret meeting with Dana White and who we can only assume was former UFC owner, Lorenzo Fertitta, the numbers thrown around and what caused it to all come crashing down.
“When Ronda Rousey became popular, I remember they finally called for a meeting and I walked into this restaurant, and they looked like two big muscular guys at the table in the middle of Hollywood and I remember thinking, ‘What took you guys so long?’” Carano said.
“So they were like, ‘Okay, we’d love to offer you a million dollars to have that fight (against Ronda Rousey).’” And I was like, ‘Well that sounds great, but I am going to need you to do me a favor because I have been acting now and I’m not active in any gym, so you are going to have to give me some time to build a team or join a team.’ Which is not an easy thing as all fighters know.”
At the time, Carano was already building her resume in Tinseltown with roles in Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire” and the box office hit “Fast and Furious 6,” so MMA training was something not on her daily agenda. Still, it was an opportunity Carano says she didn’t want to pass up.
“So I told them they would have to be able to sit on it for six months, Dana, you can’t say anything and let me get situated with that in mind because that sounds great and I’d love to do it. It was a nice dinner and we all left positive and I was stoked and it made sense for my moment to get back in there,” she added.
Much to her surprise and disappointment, Carano revealed that White spilled the beans earlier than she would have liked.
“And then the next day, Dana was out there talking about me and talking about my name and telling people that he was going to sign me and I don’t even have a team yet. And I was like, that is not what we discussed,” she added.
“You were supposed to give me at least six months to find a team. Then he started to put on the pressure in the media. It was a bummer because I told him over a text message that it was not what we had talked about. I needed time, and now I am going to walk into a gym and people know that’s what I’m doing and I needed to build trust and find people.”
Soon thereafter, Carano says an impatient White sent her a nasty text message calling her a “bitch.” Initially, she thought Dana sent it to her by accident, only to find out it was no accident at all.
“So, then he kept on doing that and kept on doing that and I’m still searching and feeling all that pressure. He then sent me a text message that said, ‘This bitch is effin’ us around,’ or something like that.”
“So I sent a text message back and said, ‘I think that you sent that to the wrong person?’ And he said, ‘I don’t think I did.’ And that was the last conversation that we ever had over text message because I don’t think that was the kind of environment that I wanted to come back into. So I just cut off all communication after that text.”
And just like that, Carano’s dream of fighting for UFC inside the Octagon were dashed. However, Carano went on to reveal she did run into White after the incident in Las Vegas and he did apologize.
“I remember seeing him when Mike Tyson and my dad were getting honored at a sports hall of fame in Las Vegas. And he did come up to me and genuinely apologized,” she said. “But yeah, I didn’t think that not even a million dollars ... when people hold money over your head, which they have done since I was a little girl, it’s just never been a turn on for me. I don’t have a problem with authority, I just have a problem with abused authority. So that was the end of that conversation.”
And though her dreams of competing for UFC died, Carano says she still had Scott Coker and other promoters she could have competed for. Ultimately, she decided acting was going to be her future, not fighting.
Carano went on to reiterate that she never wanted to be known as “the face of women’s MMA,” as there were several other female fighters who came before her. That said, looking back at it all, she admits she did want to be the first female fighter to compete for UFC.
“Now when I look back, I really am genuinely proud to have played that role,” Carano said, who was overcome with emotion. “And I did want to be the first woman in UFC. And when I watched that, it hurt in a way, but at the same time, look at my life now,” she added, while holding back tears.
Though her dreams of fighting inside the Octagon were never realized, Carano’s acting career is only getting stronger, including earning a role in the Disney+ hit, “The Mandalorian.” In the end, Carano says she is proud of Rousey and every other woman who has come after her and is happy to have played a big part in paving the way.
“So it was a dream that didn’t get to happen. But, I was able to open up doors for women to be able to walk into gyms and it could be easier. And I will always cherish that.”