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Carano ready to write one for the history books

Las Vegas fighter prepared for first-ever female MMA championship bout


Esther Lin/Strikeforce

Gina Carano (left) and Christiane “Cyborg” Santos face off during weigh-ins Friday in San Jose. The two will face off for real tonight in the first-ever female MMA title bout at the HP Pavilion.


Gina Carano, left, and Cristiane Launch slideshow »


  • What: First-ever female MMA title fight at 145 pounds between Gina Carano (7-0) vs. Christiane “Cyborg” Santos (7-1); Light heavyweight title fight: Renato Sobral (35-8) vs. Gegard Mousasi (25-2-1); Lightweight Interim title fight: Gilbert Melendez (15-2) vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida (18-5-1).
  • When: Saturday
  • Where: HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.
  • TV: Showtime (Main card starts at 7:30 p.m. PT)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — There was daddy’s little girl standing on the scale in front of the masses in just a pair of black and white striped skivvies and a black sports bra Friday afternoon at the Marriott in downtown San Jose.

While the weight of the world, at least that of the female mixed martial arts variety, was placed squarely on her shoulders — all Gina Carano could do was a crack a smile.

“I’m excited, I’m ready,” said Carano, who unlike previous weigh-ins, had no problem making weight as she came in a two full pounds under the 145-pound limit.

While Showtime cameras pressed her for last-second sound bytes and fans nearly pushed her over trying to get an autograph, the Las Vegas-based fighter was completely cool a day before she makes history tonight when she faces Christiane “Cyborg” Santos in the first-ever female MMA title bout at the HP Pavilion in San Jose.

Whether “daddy” himself, former UNLV star quarterback and Dallas Cowboy back-up Glenn Carano can handle it all, is a different story.

“Yeah I certainly get a lot more emotional than she does,” said Glenn, who has stood on the field for Super Bowls, but could hardly stop his lips from quivering as he talked about the biggest fight of his middle daughter’s life.

“It hurts me. That’s my daughter in the ring and obviously I have a huge soft spot in my heart for her.”

But at the same time, Glenn, now a casino executive at the Silver Legacy in Reno, Nev. can hardly contain the pride he has for the impending historical accomplishment that his 27-year-old daughter and Santos are on the verge of setting at 10:30 p.m. PT time.

“This is the main stage and she’s the main actor. I might have been to the main stage when I was playing, but I certainly wasn’t the main actor. Roger was,” said Glenn of playing with the Hall of Famer Roger Staubach. “My athletic career as good as it was can’t even compare to what Gina has done for the sport of MMA.”

Heck, even Carano’s cornerman, five-time UFC champ Randy Couture says he’s witnessing something as big or bigger than the biggest bouts he’s been a part of.

“This is a historical fight not just for women’s MMA, but MMA in general,” Couture said. “These two are fighters, they can do everything that men can do. They aren’t just cute girls in skimpy outfits. These are real mixed martial artists — that’s the most important point of all of this.

“This moment is gonna be looked back upon as the foundation for a lot of females’ foray into MMA.”

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is gonna look back at Saturday and smile because the fight will actually take place.

After three other title fights had to be changed, including earlier-in-the-week casualty and California fan favorite Nick Diaz being pulled from the card for failure to pass a state sanctioned drug test, Coker was more than a little pleased to see both fighters came in under weight on the scale — something that hasn’t always been the case for either Santos or Carano.

“I breathed a little easier,” said Coker, who has been in the fight biz for more than 20 years, but said this week was the first time he ever monitored fighters’ weights daily.

“They both knew what they had to do, and now we’re gonna make history.”

Carano, whose journey in MMA actually began when Las Vegas Muay Thai guru Master Toddy teased a then 21-year-old Carano that she was overweight, has steamrolled into the largest female bout in not only MMA — but combat sports in general.

The pair of pioneers will not only decide the sport’s first-ever female championship and split a purse of $200,000 in front of a Showtime audience, but help to cross a plateau that in the recent past was thought as unattainable — a women’s bout as the main event of a major MMA show.

“I believe God is blessing me with this opportunity. Not everybody knows me here but that doesn't bother me,” said Cyborg, a minus 180 favorite at some sports books, who admitted to CBS Sports earlier in the week that the crowd will be siding with Carano.

“Once we are inside the cage, it's Gina vs. me as fighters and the crowd booing won't make me better or worse."

The disciple of the Brazilian Chute Boxe Academy, who has compiled a perfect 7-0 record after losing her first pro bout in Brazil in 2005, said she would push the action in hopes of a knockout.

“I will go for the face because I always go for the face with knees, kicks and punches,” Santos told CBS. “I don't have anything against Gina," Cyborg notes. "I like Gina and think she is a good person.”

Carano said she will have to be cautious of the ripped Brazilian’s ability to end the fight with one strike.

“Her sheer power and strength make her dangerous anywhere, anytime,” said Carano (7-0), who hasn’t fought in 10 months since the folding of EliteXC last fall.

“I think Cyborg said it best — (the winner) is going to be determined by the person who makes the least amount of mistakes or the one who gets caught first.”

Win or lose, Carano’s good friend and fellow female fighter Kim Couture, says the fight “is nothing but a win-win situation for women’s MMA.”

“It’s monumental for us women, and I think it will truly make a statement for the sport,” Kim Couture said. “I’m so happy that it finally got done and that they will also have the five minute rounds, they deserve it.

“These are the right girls to have in there for this one.”

Coker compares the fight to Muhammad Ali’s “Fight of the Century” with Joe Frazier.

“When I first put this fight together six months ago, I said it’s the largest fight in female MMA history. Now I look back and say there’s never been a bigger fight in female kickboxing history. I looked at female boxing history and they had Christy Martin back in the day and Laila Ali, but I don’t remember the opponents they fought,” Coker said.

“There was never that big Ali-Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard-(Roberto) Duran, (Thomas) Hearns-(Marvin) Hagler match-up. This fight has that feeling to me. It has that electric feeling of a big championship fight.”

Hard not to smile after such praise, but Carano promises her girly grin will be all gone tonight.

“Her muscles might look bigger, but I am strong,” Carano said. “I know I smile and I joke around now, but when it comes fight time, I take it very seriously and know how to get down.”

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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