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Carano, Young fighting for acceptance

It was huge news when EliteXC brought female mixed martial artists for the first time to Showtime on February 10, 2007. For the masses, those casual fans or first time viewers, it certainly was an eye opener when Gina Carano fought Julie Kedzie.

But this is different. EliteXC is about to make network history when their "Saturday Night Fights" event debuts on CBS on May 31, 2008. As big as Showtime is, it really fails in comparison to the notoriety that CBS can bring. On this card, Carano will be facing Kaitlin Young.

"It's been my feeling all along that women should be treated as equals," says EliteXC's President of Live Events, Gary Shaw. "If they can go to war, they sure can fight in mixed martial arts."

Is the network television world really ready to witness females duking it out? If they're not, could EliteXC's decision to showcase female fighters at their initial CBS event actually hurt MMA's chances in the mainstream?

"We have a lot of responsibility to all the athletes and we have a lot of responsibility to all the people that support us," said Shaw in reference to this event. Others have noted the extreme responsibility that Shaw and EliteXC have to the sport in general by putting on this event as well. So when you add in the fact that Young and Carano will also be fighting on the card, well, the pressure multiplies, does it not?

But perhaps the notion of worrying about whether mainstream society will accept the Carano-Young fight isn't the way to go with this article. Perhaps it's more important, as Shaw alluded to earlier, to begin the discussion by noting how deserving fighting women are of showcasing their talents.

"I started Olympic style Taekwondo a long time ago when I was 14," says Young. "I did that for a long time. Then I got started in amateur kickboxing and made the switch to MMA this last year."

So this is a woman that has been practicing serious martial arts since the age of 14. And on top of the aforementioned, Young is even studying exercise science or Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, something that you don't hear everyday. She's also competed in several submission grappling tournaments.

Then there's the most well-know female MMA fighter in the land, Gina Carano. Previous to MMA, Carano was able to rack up a stellar 12-1-1 Muay Thai kickboxing record. Further, she's worked as a prized pupil under outstanding Muay Thai coach Master Toddy. Carano's also 5-0 in MMA competition (Young is 4-1). And, of course, there's the fact that athletics are in her blood. Carano's father, Glenn Carano, once played backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

In other words, these girls have both put in their time. They are true athletes and have talent.

Besides, when you think back to that February of 2007 Showtime card, the girls got a ton of cheers for the fight they put on; it was that exciting. Which brings us to the next part of the story on this? if the girls are talented martial artists, and this is a fight, well, isn't that the important part?

"A fight's a fight and once you get in the cage, everything goes away and it's just you against that person," says Carano, reminding everyone that all of the hoopla won't matter anymore on May 31. "We can only do the best we can do. We've both had about the same amount of fights and we've both [been] brought up in the sport pretty fast. We're going to put on a good fight."

And if they do, if they put on their fight, Carano believes that the results will be positive.

"If we just be ourselves, which we both will be, I think the public will really, really love it and be drawn to it and want to see more of it."

Clearly Shaw and EliteXC believe in that notion, as word is they plan on adding more women to the roster in the future, are planning on having a women's title, and may even put on an all women's show soon.

"We're going to continue to put them on CBS. We're going to continue to put them on Showtime and on our ShoXC (Elite Challenger Series) shows as well," he says.

In the end, how women's MMA does will depend on how good the fights are, which is the same story as with the men. Yes, those that haven't witnessed women's MMA before may be squeamish when they first see Carano and Young take the stage, and there will even be some that simply cannot bring themselves to watch.

But fighting is entertainment, and if the females continue to prove worthy...

The world will be ready.