Gina Carano has Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in her sights, but the sport’s first female mega-bout is looking more and more like a late summer blockbuster.”I probably will shoot for August,” Carano told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown Radio” show on Saturday from The Fight Expo in Del Mar, Calif. “I can’t really think about anybody else [but Cyborg] right now. Everybody’s like, let’s get some tune-ups or let’s get some of this, but I can’t fight anybody else in that position because there’s this big fight between me and ‘Cyborg’ and I feel all my energy should just go to that. Before I can even think about anybody else, I just can’t fit another opponent in my mind without getting that one done.”
Since the announcement of Strikeforce’s purchase of select Pro Elite contracts in February, the congenial Carano’s status has been a key topic of discussion. Reports have suggested “the face of women’s MMA” was gung-ho to return to the cage in April or May, but she said those accounts were premature.
“If you haven’t heard it from my mouth… I never said I was going to fight in May,” said Carano. “I never said I was going to fight in April, so people might talk and make guesses, but if it’s not coming out of my mouth, it’s not true.”
Although the promotion offered Carano bouts in its April and May events, Strikeforce has apparently given the newly proposed timetable its blessing.
“We would love to have Gina come fight for us in August,” wrote Mike Afromowitz, director of media relations for Strikeforce, in an email to Sherdog.com on Tuesday. “A fight between her and Cyborg in August would be great. It’s important that fighters return to action when they feel comfortable and ready to do so.”
Whether the August matchup would be slotted as a headliner, or if there is any chance the anticipated bout could be relegated to a CBS broadcast or even allotted to pay-per-view was something Afromowitz wouldn’t comment on. Strikeforce announced a multi-year broadcast deal on Feb. 5 with Showtime, which will host up to 10 events in 2009, and up to 16 in 2010. CBS, the parent conglomerate of Showtime, is expected to adopt a couple of those events as well, possibly as early as the fall.
The extra time will also allow fighter and promoter the opportunity to come to terms on money, while Santos faces grappling ace Hitomi Akano next in the interim at Strikeforce’s April 11 event.
Carano’s agent, Matt Walker, of the Wasserman Media Group, has been in talks with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker since February to restructure the undefeated fighter’s contract with the San Jose-based promotion. Carano (7-0) was paid a measly $25,000 for her three-round decision over Kelly Kobold last October on EliteXC’s “Saturday Night Fights broadcast on CBS. However, she has drawn just as much attention to the sport as her top male counterparts.
In addition to her stint on NBC’s revitalized “American Gladiators” last year, Carano was named one of Yahoo’s Top 10 Influential Women of 2008, alongside New York State Senator and former first lady Hilary Clinton, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, media guru Oprah Winfrey, and movie star and humanitarian Angelina Jolie. The striking 26-year-old was also coupled with to the late Bruce Lee in a retrospective Pepsi commercial, which aired during the last Superbowl.
Carano’s last fight on CBS was seen by nearly 5.2 million viewers, and drew in an additional million set of eyes from the bout that preceded it. Carano’s only visible downside would be her struggles to make weight before her fights; Carano noted that she’d just undergone a month-long diet detox program.
Regardless, a pay raise would seem to be in order, but the two sides have yet to come to a deal. At a Strikeforce press conference on March 12 in Los Angeles, Coker likened the negotiations to a “holdout” from “training camp,” but both sides have described discussions as both open and amicable.
The sport’s ultimate lady-in-waiting has had other suitors as well. Carano confirmed to Sherdog.com that she met with UFC owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White one day before the Strikeforce-Showtime union was announced, after Fertitta contracted Carano’s father, Glen. Carano and Fertitta formerly served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission together.
“It was really the first time I really ever talked to either one personally,” said Carano. “They expressed doing something with me, but the very next day, Strikeforce had the contracts. [Fertitta and White] are pretty intelligent guys. They had a strong presence about them and it was really cool to meet them. I can’t not take that as a compliment that they had me in.”
Carano was impressed with the UFC contingent – which has told the press it has interest in promoting one-off bouts with her. However, Carano knows she has more futures to consider than just her own.
“Strikeforce has a vision for women. They want to do something with women,” said Carano, who’d likely have to enter into the legal realm to contest Strikeforce’s claim to her present contract.
Some might argue that Carano, Strikeforce, Showtime, and possibly even the sport itself would be better served to have the raven-haired beauty face another opponent, both for the sheer experience and to further suspend build-up for the anticipated showdown with Santos. The Xtreme Couture fighter seems to have made up her mind though.
“I really just want something to make me train, to make me mentally take it to the next level, and I really think a fight like ‘Cyborg’ will do that,” said Carano.