Gina Carano will fight Ronda Rousey for the women's bantamweight title, likely at UFC 181 in Las Vegas on Dec. 6 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, if Carano signs a new deal, UFC president Dana White told reporters in Dublin on Friday.
White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta have a face-to-face meeting scheduled Monday with Carano and her attorney in a bid to finalize a contract.
White told reporters Friday that the fight would be in December, but not on the UFC's annual New Year's Eve card. The Dec. 6 show at Mandalay Bay is the only pay-per-view the UFC has scheduled in December.
That raises three major questions:
• Does Carano deserve a championship match after five years on the sidelines?
• Can Carano make the bantamweight division's 135-pound weight limit?
• Would Carano stand a chance to be competitive with Rousey?
Let's start with the last question first. The sport has evolved in the last five years, particularly the women's side. If they indeed fight at UFC 181, Carano will enter the bout without a win in more than six years after losing her final fight against Cris "Cyborg" Justino on Aug. 15, 2009. She defeated Kelly Kobold on an Elite XC card on Oct. 4, 2008, in her last win. Kobold took the fight with Carano coming off back-to-back losses and has only fought once since.
Prior to that, Carano defeated Kaitlin Young on May 31, 2008, a card best known as the debut of Kimbo Slice. Carano stopped Young in the second round. Including the loss to Carano, Young is 3-7-1 and hasn't won a fight since Jan. 6, 2012.
The women's fighters today are vastly better than they were in 2009, and Rousey is vastly better than the rest of the field. That means there is a huge burden on Carano to raise her game. It's one thing to fight after being off for a year, but being off for more than five years is an entirely different situation.
It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Carano can give Rousey a more competitive fight than either Miesha Tate or Sara McMann did.
That leads to the question of whether Carano deserves a title shot. The answer is absolutely not, at least not on her own merits.
But Rousey badly wants to fight Carano. Rousey got into MMA because of Carano and has expressed her admiration for Carano numerous times. Rousey has done so much for MMA and the UFC that if she wants a match with Carano that badly, she deserves it.
Let's be honest: It's not like there's been anyone in the division who has been tearing through the opposition and would be short-changed if Carano took the title shot.
Yeah, Cat Zingano was promised a title shot, but she got hurt and then suffered through a personal tragedy and she hasn't fought since April 13, 2013. She has a fight scheduled against Amanda Nunes on Sept. 27 at UFC 178.
The other person who at least would have some argument is Justino, who isn't in the UFC yet.
I want to go on record as saying this: I am 100 percent against those who use performance-enhancing drugs, as Justino has done. But I think she's being unfairly singled out by White for that usage. White, for example, is advocating Vitor Belfort for a shot at Chris Weidman's middleweight title. Belfort, of course, failed a drug test following a Pride show in Las Vegas in 2006, and he failed a random test given to him by the Nevada Athletic Commission in February. In addition, his performance only went up after he went on a testosterone replacement therapy regimen.
Belfort has a far worse record than Justino in terms of PED usage and problems with drug tests, but White is pushing for him and ripping Justino.
That is unequivocally wrong. If you, as the promoter, have no problem with Belfort's record as far as PEDs go, then it is unconscionable to have one with Justino's.
However, Justino has yet to prove she can make 135 pounds. She first said it would impact her health if she tried; her most recent stance is that she will try, and she plans to fight on an Invicta card at bantamweight in December.
So, Carano getting that Dec. 6 title shot vs. Rousey would not impact Justino, either.
The final question then is whether Carano can make weight. She says she can, but she has a long history of being unable to make weight at a higher number. It's clearly right to be skeptical of her ability to do it.
Undoubtedly, it would be one of the biggest fights the UFC has ever put on and would mean big money for both fighters.
If Carano can compete safely, then why not?