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Gina Carano is Back, Just Not Back in MMA

It’s been two and a half years since women’s mixed martial arts hit its apex. On August 15, 2009, Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos met in the biggest fight in WMMA history. Carano fought valiantly, but as time ran out in the 1st round, the fight was stopped by the referee as Cyborg reigned blows on the face of WMMA.

Last weekend, Cyborg was handed a year’s suspension following a positive steroids test in the wake of her December 17th ass-kicking of Hiroko Yamanaka. In a post on Saturday night, I said that Cyborg had basically killed the sport. Obviously, an entire sport did not die with Cyborg’s positive test, but if you need me, I’m going to be out on this limb saying this isn’t great for the sport.

I’m not here to talk about that though. I’m here to help you remember Gina Carano. Despite the fact that she hasn’t fought since Cyborg beat her out of the sport, she’s still pretty damn relevant. On January 20th, her major motion picture debut, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, will premiere.

With Zuffa purchasing Strikeforce, Carano has become a fixture at UFC events. She showed up at UFC 141 a couple weeks ago to shill Haywire and wear a hat and dance. MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani caught up with Carano that night to interview her for the first time since before the Cyborg fight. Carano bit her lip and avoided all the questions that people had been wanting to ask about her MMA career.

Last summer, we almost saw Carano return to the cage, but two weeks before the fight, she pulled out with a mysterious medical condition that she refuses to discuss. It’s nice that Carano wants her privacy, but as an athlete, fans and media want their answers. In six months since pulling out of the fight, no rumor has emerged as to why. Kind of strange, right?

Carano has always been that way. She has seemed to keep a level of privacy even as her fame grew. She’s been far from a recluse. In 2008, she appeared on the American Gladiators remake as Crush. In 2009, Carano was #16 on Maxim’s Hot 100 list. Later in the year she was featured on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine’s Body Issue. For the last year, she’s been filming Haywire. Now she’s out doing the rounds to promote the film. Including a new photo shoot with GQ.

What happens next? The odds of Carano’s Haywire character turning into the female Jason Bourne are slim, but early reviews have been positive despite the fact that the movie has already been pushed back to the cinematic wasteland of January. (I’m cautiously optimistic about Haywire, but the quality of a movie seldom has anything to do with a strong opening weekend. A solid opening could mean more work for the unproven actress. A bad opening could mean a return to her MMA roots. Or maybe she just walks away from the spotlight. The only thing that’s for sure is that Gina Carano can do whatever she wants. But what the hell does she actually want to do?

[Getty, GQ, MMA Fighting]

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