Women's MMA News and Notes: McMann vs. Akano, Fujii Returns, Carano's Future

Despite a shortage of talent, the interest in women's MMA seems to be stronger than ever, thanks in large part to Cris Cyborg, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Still, there are other talented women making headlines out there, and they deserve some of our attention too.

Below is a roundup of news and notes from the world of women's MMA.

* ProElite has signed an intriguing 135-pound fight for its upcoming card on Jan. 21 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Sara McMann, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist who has compiled a 4-0 MMA record thus far, will meet top-ranked Hitomi Akano on the undercard of the event headlined Kendall Grove vs. Ikuhisa Minowa. The 31-year-old McMann defeated Raquel Pa'aluhi via third-round submission in the first ProElite show back in August. Akano, who famously lost to an overweight Cris Cyborg in an Aug. 2009 Strikeforce bout, enters the fight with an 18-8 record and riding a two-fight winning streak. She recently defeated Roxanne Modaferri via unanimous decision in July.

* Megumi Fujii (pictured), one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in the world, has agreed to meet Karla Benitez in the first-ever DREAM women's bout. The fight will take place on the promotion's New Year's Eve show, which is being dubbed "DREAM - Fight for Japan: Genki Desu Ka! New Year! 2011." Fujii (24-1) is 2-0 since suffering the first and only loss of her career to Zoila Gurgel at Bellator 34 last October. Benitez (6-1) will enter the bout looking to get back on track after losing her first pro MMA fight in her most recent bout in October.

* Speaking of Gurgel, the Bellator 115-pound champion, who underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL several weeks ago, tweeted recently that she is healing "ahead of schedule," and if things keep up this way, she could be back in action in approximately five months.

* "Haywire," starring Gina Carano, will be released in theaters on Jan. 20, so that means expect to see a whole lot more of Carano in the coming weeks. Which leads us to ...

* Carano is featured in the latest edition GQ Magazine. More on that here. Now, if you're wondering whether Carano will ever fight again, we asked Stephen Espinoza, the new EVP and GM of Showtime Sports, who also used to be Carano's a lawyer, that very question on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour.

"I've actually been trading calls with Gina," he said. "She's really, really focused on the film, on 'Haywire.' She just smiles and winks. You know her well enough. She's got that sort of mysterious wink once in a while when she sort of says, I don't know, but will sort of wink and you kind of feel like there's something else there. But I know she is, in her heart, a fighter and always has that urge, just like any boxer does or anyone that is really committed to the sport. So if there is any opportunity to do so, I think you could see her [fight again] pretty quickly."

* It feels like Rousey, who is still pushing for a fight against Miesha Tate at 135 pounds instead of Cris Cyborg at 145, continues to break barriers everyday. For example, she was a guest on Joe Rogan's popular podcast, "The Joe Rogan Experience," on Wednesday, which most MMA fighters can't say, let alone any women's MMA fighters. You can watch/listen to the show here.

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