by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
When she faces Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in August, Gina Carano, for the first time in her mixed martial arts career, will have her gym’s namesake by her side.
Randy Couture has accepted Carano’s invitation to train her for the highly anticipated Strikeforce bout, MMAWeekly.com has learned from a source close to Couture. The invitation was made shortly after Carano’s contractual limbo with the promotion ended.
Couture, currently on the New Orleans set of the Sylvester Stallone-helmed action movie “The Expendables,” is watching video on Santos to formulate a game plan. When he returns to Las Vegas later this month, he will begin working beside Carano in addition to boxing coach Gil Martinez and Muay Thai coach Quinton Chong.
As in her previous three camps, the gym’s regulars, including Tyson Griffin, Gray Maynard, Mike Pyle, Jay Hieron, and Martin Kampmann, will be her sparring partners.
Carano has been inactive since defeating the tough Kelly Kobald at EliteXC’s “Heat” in October. Still undefeated at 7-0, she remains the most popular fighter in the short history of women’s MMA, placing No. 5 in a Yahoo! poll of 2008′s “Most Influential Women.”
Santos, a former professional handball player in Curitiba, Brazil, is arguably the brightest prospect in the next generation of Chute Boxe fighters. A Muay Thai brawler, she dispatched the undersized Hitomi Akano at “Shamrock vs. Gracie” in April, bringing her professional record to 7-1.
The fight will be for Strikeforce’s first ever women’s 145-pound title and will be contested over five, five-minute rounds, a first in the division. Its buzz has prompted calls for a headlining spot on the Aug. 15 card, to be held at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.