Carano continues her battle for respect
LAS VEGAS – Gina Carano is a fighter, not a blogger or a journalist, so she struggles to understand descriptions of her as a “pin-up girl” and as a “model turned fighter.”
And Carano, who meets Kelly Kobold-Gavin on Oct. 4 on an EliteXC show on CBS at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., is quickly learning that fame isn’t all that compelling.
“I don’t even know what a pin-up girl is, and I’ve never called myself a pin-up girl or done anything to try to depict myself in any way other than as a woman who likes to be attractive but who also likes to fight,” Carano said. “I haven’t taken raunchy pictures. I haven’t done anything that would embarrass myself, my family or my sport, but I see people writing things like that and it’s so discouraging.”
It’s about time she is recognized and appreciated as one of the most entertaining fighters, regardless of gender, in the world.
Kimbo Slice, who will headline the CBS card on Oct. 4, is a novelty, but that can’t be said of Carano. She was 12-1-1 as a Muay Thai fighter and is 6-0 in mixed martial arts and isn’t a circus act used to sell tickets.
Slice, whose real name is Kevin Ferguson, only recently began training in MMA. His popularity came due to videos of backyard brawls which were viewed tens of millions of times on the popular web video sharing site, YouTube.
Slice isn’t a top-level fighter and is matched very carefully by EliteXC so as to protect his fearsome image. On the inaugural fight card on CBS on May 31, CBS matched Slice with James Thompson, a no-hoper who had lost six of his last eight and who’d been knocked out in the first round in each of his past two outings.
On Oct. 4, he faces UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock. But Shamrock’s recent record is even more dismal than Thompson’s. Shamrock is 1-9 in his past 10 fights, has been stopped in the first round in the past five and hasn’t won since 2004.
That’s a novelty act.
There was a time when adding a women’s fight to a card was a novelty, but that time has long since passed. Women’s fighting is legitimate and Carano’s presence on the card simply guarantees it another good action fight, not just a pretty face.
Carano’s high-paced style and heavy hands have made her one of the game’s most entertaining fighters. She’s been willing to fight anyone and, in Kobold-Gavin, will fight a woman with a 16-2-1 record and significantly much more MMA experience.
Kobold-Gavin won her first eight fights, had a draw, then reeled off eight more wins. Since that 16-0-1 start, she’s lost her past two, but they came to Tara LaRosa, arguably the finest female fighter in the world, and Julie Kedzie, a veteran who gave Carano a battle last year.
Carano, who is looking forward to a big fight next year with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos next year, insists she wasn’t given a tune-up fight to build the showdown with Santos.
“You don’t get a 16-2-1 record without being able to fight in this sport,” Carano said. “She’s well-rounded and I think we’re a good match. I’m looking to be pushed and I think she’ll push me.”
There will be subtle pressure from EliteXC and CBS officials for Carano to not only win, but to do so spectacularly. EliteXC is in dire financial straits and is on the verge of going under.
There is speculation that it will collapse if Slice, its biggest attraction, loses, and it may collapse regardless.
Carano is second only to Slice in the EliteXC/CBS pecking order. She’s a ratings draw and a ticket seller and it would help immensely if she were to put on a toe-to-toe battle with Kobold-Gavin.
But imagine what it must be like feeling the weight of your company’s success is dependent upon your job performance on a given day.
Imagine you walk into work on Monday morning and the boss pulls you aside for a little chat.
Economic times are hard. The company is struggling. We need you, the boss says, to step up and do a good job. For a second, you’re a bit puzzled. You always do a good job. You believe you’re the company’s most dependable employee.
But then comes the bombshell: If you don’t do really well, and if you don’t have a truly great day at work, the company is going under.
That’s essentially the burden that Slice and, to a lesser degree, Carano will be carrying to the cage on Oct. 4.
And that is one of the many reasons that Carano feels a unique kinship with Slice. They’re the most demanded of the EliteXC athletes. They’re under the greatest microscope. They face the heaviest expectations. And dealing with what she’s dealt with over the past year-and-a-half since signing with EliteXC, Carano has begun to feel for Slice and what he’s had to endure.
“He’s great,” Carano said of Slice. “I feel we have this kind of a connection, I absolutely do. We’ve kind of gone through the same things with EliteXC. He’s so very recognizable and everyone expects so much from him. I can relate to that so much. We’re trying to do the best we can with the experience we have.
“I believe in Kimbo. He’s a wonderful person. When I see him, it’s nice to see his face. I know when I do see him, we’re probably feeling similar things in our lives. There’s a thing we share that I don’t think too many others would understand.”