To say that 2008 was a banner year for Women’s MMA would be an understatement. Major MMA organizations have been putting female fighters under contract, and bouts have been more plentiful than ever before. To think that the ability to see a women’s MMA bout on prime time network television would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but this year, it
became reality. But like her or hate her, some of the credit has to go to Gina Carano.
“I think I have been a big part of introducing women’s MMA to the world, but it’s been a blessing,” Gina Carano said in an interview in September.
“I was the right person at the right time the right place the right attitude right fighter, and when I look back at my career I made some kind of significant impact on the sport.”
Carano, who was just recently chosen as Yahoo! Buzz fifth most influential woman of 2008, has been a very busy woman inside and outside the ring. Her year started with her appearances on NBC’s smash hit “American Gladiators” as “Crush”, who showed her physical prowess, taking amateur athletes to task. The exposure lead to several model shoots, including features in “Muscle and Fitness”, “Maxim” and “ESPN” magazines. The coverage helped promote her EliteXC fight with Kaitlin Young this past May, with was the first women’s MMA fight to be featured on prime time network television.
The May bout was one of the fights of the night for the EliteXC/CBS card, as they went two rounds before the referee stopped the fight as Kaitlin Young took some heavy damage by Carano. Gina’s decision over Kelly Kobold in a second network primetime fight in October started to silence the critics of her fighting skills, and was again consider one of the fights of the night. Both fights showed very strong in the ratings and Carano’s web searches skyrocketed before and after each fight. The fights also paved the way for what could be considered the biggest women’s MMA fight in history with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, which is yet to be scheduled.
After Carano’s successes inside and outside the ring during this year, major MMA fighting organizations have now reconsidered their stance on women fighters. In a recent interview in Toronto, UFC/WEC president Dana White had changed his long standing opposition of bring female fighter into his organizations.
“Gina Carano is a star, I think she’s talented,” White told the press. “I think she’s got all the tools, so what I’m willing to do is bring Gina into the WEC. We could do fights whenever there’s a challenger for Gina. That’s how I’ll test the waters and see how it goes.”
There were some critics of Carano using her beautiful looks to promote the sport over the past year. Top female fighter Tara LaRosa had concerns that using sex to promote female MMA was something the sport didn’t need or want.
“The girls that are using their sexuality to sell themselves are obviously compensating for something that they are lacking in the ring,” stated LaRosa on an interview for ESPN’s “E:60” program this past May. “I do find the skimpy, sexual side to be disrespectful of the sport. I was really hoping that female MMA wouldn’t go in that direction.”
However, Carano says she is all about the training and fighting tough opponents. In the interview on “Sportsgeeks”, she explains it’s all about testing her skills in the ring.
“Everyone has your opinion about you. I am just doing this fighting thing because I want to. I am sticking to it to see where I line up verse all the other female fighters out there.”
With the year over, women’s MMA is looking stronger than ever coming into 2009. New stars shall rise, but the platform in which they can show their skills has been elevated to an all new high. Carano is humble and hopeful for the coming years of women’s MMA.
“This is just the beginning of the sport really there are a lot of amazing fighters out there. It’s just a matter of the world getting introduced to them and them becoming names.