In an interview with FanHouse, Carano also discussed her strategy for fighting Cyborg, her training methods and her life outside the cage. The full interview is below.
Gina Carano: (Laughs) I'm sure there are a lot of tough women out there, if I beat her I'll certainly feel good about where I stand.
Did you always know you were a tough girl growing up, or is toughness something you've discovered through martial arts that you didn't always know you had?
Oh, I always knew. I was strong, a tough little girl, and I think that's where it started. I wasn't like the other little girls around me. I was stronger and able to beat up little boys around me. Being a fighter started when I was a little girl.
But you couldn't have known you'd make a career out of it.
I never thought about it as something I could do. I got some scholarship opportunities to play basketball at some small Christian schools in California, but I wasn't able to because my sister was going through a tough time with drugs and I decided to stay closer to home. So one door closed, but another opened when I was 21 when I started Muay Thai, and it just happened at the right time for me.
From a technical perspective, what do you have to do to win this fight against Cyborg?
I need to be sharp and be on my game and fight my fight, and not get overwhelmed by her aggressive style. Keep my head about me. It's going to be an extremely tough fight. Cyborg is definitely my toughest opponent to date so I'll do what I can to be as sharp and powerful as I can that night.
Jay Hieron | Jesse Taylor | Mike Kyle | Fabricio Werdum
What would you describe as her strengths as a fighter?
She's a complete, well-rounded fighter, she's good on the ground and she's good standing. She has a very aggressive, push-the-pace approach to fighting. She's a great fighter, definitely one of the best in the world, and that's what's going to make it so tough.
What will be going through your mind as you're walking to the cage Saturday night? Fear? Nervousness? Anger? Relief?
Focus. Focus on what I'm going to be doing and what my plan is and who I am, and hopefully when I step into the cage I'm confident, focused and ready to go.
How much thought have you given to the larger significance of this fight to Strikeforce, to Showtime, and to the sport of MMA itself?
I think I've done a good job of managing the pressure and not allowing myself to think about how big a deal this is. I know later on when I look back on this it's going to blow my mind. But right now I have to focus on this as just another fight. Cyborg puts her pants on the same way I do, and she's just another fighter. I hope this opens doors and breaks down barriers, but right now in my mind it has to be just another fight.
Three years ago you fought Leiticia Pestova in the first sanctioned women's MMA fight in Nevada. Are you surprised how far MMA, and especially MMA for women, has come since then?
I'm surprised by the part I've played in that. I never thought I would personally be that involved. There have been female fighters in gyms through the years who were just looking for an opportunity, and I'm not surprised that we're here at this point because there have been so many fighters looking for that opportunity, but I am surprised by the part I played in it.
You have played a huge part in it, and you've become famous for it, including being profiled in The New York Times What was that like for you?
I really appreciated that article. I thought that was one of the best-written articles on me in my career, and that it was in the New York Times was that much cooler.I thought it really got me and understood me. That feels good.
This is something I asked Scott Coker, and I want to ask you as well. There have been a few times in American sports where the most popular female athlete was a bigger star than the most popular male athlete. I can think of Mia Hamm in soccer a few years ago, probably the Williams sisters right now are bigger stars in the U.S. than any male tennis player. Is it possible that you can be the biggest star, male or female, in MMA?
Oh, I don't know about that. I'm in this sport with a lot of wonderful athletes and fighters I respect, and I don't look at myself as being the biggest star. I just want to have a positive impact on people in positive ways, regardless of whether I'm the biggest star or not.
Do you like being a celebrity?
I do. I think I'm probably the most average celebrity there is. I'm very approachable. Anybody can talk to me. I like being able to be real with people, talking to people and hopefully affecting their lives. That's the coolest part of being a celebrity.
What are the drawbacks of fame?
The demands of being out there. Some days I just don't feel like talking to people and doing interviews. Some days I don't feel like talking to anyone. And I think sometimes people see you as not a human, like you're just an ideal or something. Sometimes I have a conversation with someone who doesn't seem to realize that I'm just an ordinary person like they are.
Have you thought about how many girls will be watching you, and what you hope they'll get out of seeing this big fight between two women as the main event on a card made up otherwise of male fighters?
I think it'll be inspirational. Girls will see me and Cris Cyborg doing something that we've trained for and they'll see us putting it all on the line that night against each other, seeing the intensity that two women can bring to athletics.
What types of things do you like to do outside MMA?
I like to travel. If I could do anything right now, I'd just travel, to Spain or France or Italy, and see the world. I've traveled a little, I traveled to Thailand and studied Muay Thai, and when you travel you see that it's a big world and it's also a small world.
What do you like to do to relax outside the cage?
I love listening to music. When I use my computer it's to look up bands and find new music. I realized recently that all the music I listen to has a lot of intense screaming in it. And I was like, "Whoa, I didn't realize I was that girl." But I guess I like harder music. But I like other music too. Something we don't really have here in Vegas is a jazz bar. I'd love that. And I love movies. I'll put on a movie on DVD and watch it over and over again. I've been watching a lot of romantic comedies lately. I think laughing is the best type of recovery, so when I'm trying to recover and heal my body, that's good.
Who are your closest friends in MMA?
I have my gym full of guys who I consider like brothers. Randy Couture is my coach, and then guys like Tyson Griffin, Mike Pyle, Jay Hieron, Martin Kampmann, just guys that I've gotten to know through going to the gym every day.
Those people are all at Xtreme Couture. How important have Randy and your coaches been to your career?
They've been there through everything. They make me laugh. They stick with me in everything from weight cutting to getting on the scale naked to all the media stuff I've been through.
Can you offer me your prediction for Saturday night?
No, I don't make predictions. I'm just hoping for a really amazing fight. And I know whoever holds the belt at the end of the night is going to be a great champion.
Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg takes place Saturday night on Showtime. For live updates, check MMA FanHouse or follow my MMA Twitter page.