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Gina Carano: Ready to take on "Cyborg" in five-round, main-event war

June 16, 2009 |  7:46 pm

Gina Women's mixed martial arts has reached main-event, major-arena status, and the reason why is a Maxim model who also knows how to punch in the face and wrestles under the direction of MMA legend Randy Couture.

Gina Carano is back in MMA after an eight-month layoff following the financial collapse of MMA organization Elite Xtreme Combat. Carano (7-0) has joined the organization Strikeforce and is scheduled to fight her stiffest challenger yet, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos (7-1) in a main-event bout for the 145-pound female championship August 15 at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Showtime will televise.

Promoters announced Tuesday that the bout is scheduled to last five rounds that are each five minutes long, as the UFC does in its championship events.

"It doesn't bother me," Carano told The Times on Tuesday during a training break at Couture's training facility in Las Vegas. "It raises the intensity and makes me train harder."

Sending a message of intimidation this week, Santos put a male Internet reporter into a sleeper hold.

"I just watched it," Carano said. "I respect 'Cyborg,' she's extremely aggressive. ... I'll have to switch my game plan a little bit to combat her, but I'm not stressing too much. I know I'll have a good game plan."

Carano, who has participated on NBC's "American Gladiators" and has done a photo spread in Maxim in addition to ranking ahead of Michelle Obama in a Yahoo! poll of the most influential women of 2008, said being involved in a big fight is what she's always wanted.

"People don't think I'm as strong as I am," she said, laughing. "I know what I can do.

"I'm feminine sometimes and I've done roadwork to get myself exposure and attention for the sport. But I started in this to test myself versus the best. And now, finally, it's caught up to why I originally started it. I still feel like I can beat the best."

Carano is hard at work in Vegas, where she lives, and has called upon boxing coaches and Couture (when he's done filming a movie in New Orleans) for help.

On Tuesday, she stoppped briefly to appreciate how far she's taken the appeal of women's MMA.

"It'll keep getting better, there's lots of good girls ready to fight," she said.

-- Lance Pugmire

Photo: Gina Carano. Credit: Courtesy of Brener Zwikel