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Gina Carano Close to Signing With Strikeforce, Still Hopes to Fight for Zuffa

Since the demise of EliteXC last October, Gina Carano has remained relatively quiet. The female mixed martial arts fighter is one of the biggest stars in the sport and it seems like every day someone's talking about her proposed super-fight with Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos.

Gina Carano Photos

    Gina Carano catches all the action at the Strikeforce show on Saturday, April 11, 2009 in San Jose, Calif.

    Tom Casino, Strikeforce

    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 15: MMA fighter Gina Carano and UFC fighter Tyson Griffin attend UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar at the MGM Garden Arena on November 15, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

    Jon Kopaloff, Getty Images

    Gina Carano, right, punches Kelly Kobold during an Elite XC show on Oct. 4, 2008.

    Tom Casino, CBS-SHOWTIME

    Gina Carano, right, punches Kelly Kobold during an Elite XC show on Oct. 4, 2008.

    Tom Casino, CBS-SHOWTIME

    Gina Carano kicks Kelly Kobold during an Elite XC show on Oct. 4, 2008.

    Tom Casino, CBS-SHOWTIME

    Gina Carano, right, kicks Kelly Kobold during an Elite XC show on Oct. 4, 2008.

    Tom Casino, CBS-SHOWTIME

    Gina Carano celebrates her unanimous decision win over Kelly Kobold at an Elite XC show on Oct. 4, 2008.

    Tom Casino, CBS-SHOWTIME

    Image #: 6187912 Mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano during a segment of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" at CBS Television City on September 29, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Francis Specker /Landov

    Francis Specker, Landov

    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: MMA Superstar Gina Carano is seen during the Workout/Media Day with Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano at the Legends Mixed Martial Arts Training Center on September 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Gina Carano

    Robert Laberge, Getty Images

    20080531NKM 11/x Kaitlin Young lands a punch to the face of Gina Caranos during in their 140 lbs. Elite Xtreme Combat match at the Prudential Center. Newark, NJ 5/31/08 10:15:04 PM NOAH K. MURRAY/THE STAR-LEDGER

    Noah K. Murray, The Newark Star-Ledger/Corbis


Of course, before fans finally get a chance to see Carano vs. Santos, the Xtreme Couture fighter has to agree to terms with the San Jose-based Strikeforce organization. Strikeforce purchased Carano's contract from EliteXC earlier this year, but she has yet to officially sign with the promotion.

Carano spoke to FanHouse about why her contract negotiations are taking so long and the possibility of fighting in the UFC or WEC. The full interview is below.

Ariel Helwani: Have you signed with Strikeforce yet?
Gina Carano: No, I have not signed with Strikeforce, but the contract's getting negotiated right now and as soon as it's signed I will let you know.

What exactly is the hold-up?
You know, I will probably be able to talk about it after the fact, but maybe that's just me finding an excuse not to talk about it (laughs). I feel like while things are going on, it's probably smart just to put your head down and work instead of talk about things, so I'll talk about it later.

When Strikeforce had their first press conference to announce the Showtime deal a couple of months ago, it seemed to me that CEO Scott Coker took a small shot at you publicly by essentially saying that training camp had started and you were holding out. What did you make of that?
I've read certain interviews and heard certain things, but I've said this a lot, I'm not into the game-playing. I'm not saying that Scott Coker is doing that, but I have been around long enough to know that you just have to put your head down and work and do the best for yourself. So, if somebody's trying to call you out or challenge you – even in a fight – you just gotta kept training and do your thing. I'm just trying to do the best I can and make the right decisions for myself.

You fought for Strikeforce once in December 2006 and then signed with EliteXC. Did you leave on good terms with the organization?
It wasn't on the best terms, to be quite honest, but I don't have anything against anyone and I hope that no one's got anything against me. I fought for Strikeforce once against Elaina Maxwell and I got a really good reaction, but I hadn't signed an agreement with anybody yet. So, here comes EliteXC all pumped and ready to go and they offered me a better deal, so I was like, 'You know, this is business; I'll just go with that.' Lo and behold, later on, EliteXC goes out of business and here comes Strikeforce and they are ready to put their stuff on TV. This is just a business world and I'm not taking anything personally.

Female Fighters

    Mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano has compiled a 7-0 record and attracted national attention with her appearances in Elite XC and the TV show 'American Gladiators'. Carano is just one of many female combatants making their presence felt in the fighting world.

    Tom Casino, WireImage.com

    Erin Toughill was a mixed martial artist and boxer who started as a professional fighter back in 1999. After putting up a 7-2-1 record in MMA, Toughill decided to retire and now competes as "Steel" in the second season of 'American Gladiators'.

    Ed Mulholland, WireImage.com

    Former Playboy model LaTasha Marzolla pursues a career in professional full-contact K1 in kickboxing under the nickname "Venus". Along with Carano, she appeared in the 2005 documentary film 'Ring Girls' which featured female Muay Thai fighters.

    A. Nevader, WireImage.com

    Mia St. John, also known as "The Knockout" and "Bunny Boxer," is an American professional boxer, model and Tae Kwon Do champion. St. John competed in her first MMA contest in January 2008, defeating her opponent with a first-round knockout.

    John M. Heller, Getty Images

    Professional boxer Laila Ali, the daughter of legend Muhammad Ali, has jabbed her way to a perfect 24-0 record (21 knockouts) in her career. She has also made an appearance on 'Dancing With the Stars', and is currently the host of 'American Gladiators'.

    Lefty Shivambu, Getty IMages

    "Baby Doll" Elena Reid is a professional boxer and current WIBA Flyweight champion who got her start with combat sports like karate and kickboxing. The 26-year-old southpaw currently holds a 19-4-6 record.

    Eckehard Schulz, AP

    Julie Kedzie is a competing MMA fighter that holds a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and specializes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. On February 10, she lost to Carano during Elite XC's televised card in what was called "the fight of the night."

    Tom Casino, WireImage.com

Gina Carano

You earned just $25,000 for your last win over Kelly Kobold in October. Do you consider yourself an underpaid fighter?
Frankly, I am absolutely unmotivated by money. And I know that maybe people take that and don't understand what that means, but I am just not. What I am interested in is people that have respect. Not only respect for me, but people who have respect for women in MMA. So, the better that I can do for myself and the better I represent myself - which I have to work on all of this, by the way - the better it is for the sport. Of course money is nice when you have it in your pocket, but I am just trying to do the best deal possible. Everybody's talking on good terms now, so it's good.

What are the terms of your contract with Strikeforce?
Well, if it gets signed, it will probably be for this year and next year.

Do you have to compete in a specific number of fights?
Honestly, I'm not sure. Of course, if I am not able to fight for some reason, then the contract extends longer. We're kind of figuring that out.

A year ago, whenever UFC president Dana White was asked about promoting women's fights, he appeared to be absolutely against the idea. However, when EliteXC went out of business, he seemed very open to the idea of signing you and having you fight in World Extreme Cagefighting. Is there a part of you that is disappointed that you couldn't have signed with Zuffa (the parent company of UFC and WEC)?
Yeah, that's kind of been a little bit of the hold-up, also. I have sat down with Dana and (Zuffa co-owner) Lorenzo (Fertitta) and they have expressed interest and want to do something, but I am a little wary because I know that Strikeforce is signing women and the "Cyborg" (Santos) fight is over there. But to go and sign with the UFC would be amazing, also. I would have to go and fight (the contract that Strikeforce bought from EliteXC) in court and that would just seem like it would put more months in between me fighting, staying active and staying sane. I have a lot of decisions to make. I could do a lot of good for the sport if I fight "Cyborg" and get something started (in Strikeforce). I would fight for a belt and then every female after starts fighting this person for the belt and then more and more females get known. So, I have just been caught between two places and it's a very hard decision.

Let's just say that you were a real free agent and not tied to any organization. Do you think you would have decided to sign with Zuffa instead of Strikeforce?
I think that I would probably pick Zuffa because that's the big show, you know? To be a part of that would be amazing, but you know, here comes Strikeforce and they've got this CBS and Showtime deal and they are working their way up into being good competition. They have been respectful and haven't tried to push it too far in terms of being competitors with the UFC. They've built their company on some good roots and now they are ready to branch out on Showtime and CBS. But as of right now, the UFC is the big show, and for a female, it would be an amazing opportunity.

What did you think of the recent controversy surrounding one of Dana White's video blogs?
Some of us have different faults. Some of us miss weight occasionally (laughs); some of us are incredibly uncomfortable in front of the camera, so you gotta pick your poison. I think Dana has been notorious for being opinionated and that's probably why he gets so much attention. So, I don't know if that's surprising. I mean, guys talk like that all the time privately, so I don't know why people are so surprised.

So, barring any major setbacks, you're shooting for an August return to the cage against "Cyborg"?
I think so. I think that it will do something to me mentally if it was any time after August because it's been kind of a while already.

Have they told you where and when this fight will take place?
No, I think that will come right after the contract gets settled.

As you mentioned earlier, you have had trouble making weight before. However, you never blamed your troubles on "girl problems" like "Cyborg" did recently. What did you think of her excuse?
Obviously, I am not one to judge at all. I understand what it's like to go through that, so of course, I am sympathetic because it's not a good feeling, by any means, and you feel like you let people down. On top of it, I know what it's like to be a part of a sport where the majority of women can get to 135 or 140 (pounds). And for me, and maybe "Cyborg" and someone like Erin Toughill, who's a great fighter, we are all trying to go down to that majority (weight) region.

And you know, "Cyborg" had been training for a different fight against Marlos Coenen (scheduled for late February), who's another good fighter, months before that. She held off and didn't take that fight or got injured so she could fight for Strikeforce. Now, if you're training that long and you're holding off to do something good by fighting on this bigger show because that will help the sport, of course, something might happen like getting burned out. I'm not making any excuses for her, but (expletive) happens. So, you pick it up, you move along and try to do better the next time. You get everyone pointing the finger at you and it just makes you stronger.

In the interest of avoiding any more drama, do you think you guys should agree to fight at an open weight class or, just to be safe, a 200-pound weight limit?
(Laughs) You know, you might want to move it up to 250, just in case I get pizza happy.

I didn't mean to knock you, but you know...
Oh yeah, you didn't mean it as a knock? That was bad! Next time I see you, you are getting leg kicks in the interview. That'll be the top YouTube hit.

OK, fine. So, what weight class will this fight be contested in?
I absolutely think it needs to be at 145. I don't really feel good about myself if I don't go down. There's something mental that I have in my head that's like, 'Ok, I'm going to fight at 140 or 145.' I never want to waver on that because then I would be feeling like I am letting myself go. So, I think it will be 145 and it will be good. She'll make it. "Cyborg"'s made 140 before against Shayna Bazsler (in July 2008), so it's not like she hasn't proved that she couldn't make that. Maybe something was happening in her life, we never know.

You told me late last year that one of these days you will talk about some of the crazy behind-the-scenes stories that happened during your time with EliteXC. Are you willing to talk about some of those now?
Actually, I think that if we look back in hindsight, EliteXC really did give a good tight little effort. A piece of me misses EliteXC and I want the people who were a part of it to know that. It was pretty cool that chance that they took and busted it into Showtime and CBS. So, I don't think we should be too hard on EliteXC for going $55 million in debt (laughs).

So, no crazy stories at all?
No, I am not that person. C'mon, man, you ask me that question every single time! You think I am going to bust out on some kind of emotional rant?

Well, that's what I am shooting for. Anyhow, let's talk about your recent spread in Maxim Magazine. You have mentioned that you are shy in front of the camera, so how strange was it for you to pose in a bathing suit for a magazine?
That was a really fun photo shoot for me on a completely different level because, first of all, it was probably the most professional photo shoot I have ever been a part of. Second of all, it was just completely out of the ordinary. The more I try to take opportunities and advance my career, the more I realize that everything else besides fighting is completely out of character for me. So, doing a bathing suit photo shoot, I reached different levels of consciousness because, as a female, it's kind of nice to feel that way sometimes. You kind of feel like you are exploding with all sorts of different energy when you are doing that, so I enjoyed it. It was fun.

I was told that you were seen hanging out with your ex-fiance Kit Cope in San Jose two weeks ago. Are you guys back together?
(Laughs) No, actually, me and Kit are friends and as bad as the rep Kit gets sometimes, he really is a talented fighter and a good human being. He's somebody that I have been close to in the past, and I will always know him personally, but we both have our different lives now. So, it was nothing like that. He was there to support Nick Diaz and I was there to watch the "Cyborg" fight.

You appeared in a Pepsi Super Bowl commercial this year. What was more exciting: appearing in a Super Bowl commercial or being compared to Bruce Lee in that same advertisement?
Bruce Lee. That was definitely one of the coolest comparisons that I could have ever experienced in my life. That was just a big deal. On top of that, it's cool for Pepsi to take a leap of faith and appreciate what the country is into and put MMA on there. It was all around a very blessed project to be a part of.



And you will soon be appearing in a GM ad campaign, right?
Yeah, but I don't know if I am supposed to talk about it just yet. I did a certain campaign with GM and let's just say that there is going to be a possibility to meet one of my very close fans and hang out with them. I will talk about it later on when it comes out, probably in a week or two.

With all these new opportunities coming up, do you still consider yourself a full-time fighter?
Yeah, absolutely.