Gina Carano was part of one of the most pivotal moments in women’s MMA, when she and Cris Cyborg headlined a Strikeforce event. The two were standing atop the women’s side of the sport and battling for the inaugural Strikeforce women’s featherweight championship.
Cyborg ultimately won the bout, stopping Carano with one tick left on the clock in the first round.
Carano remained hugely popular in the mixed martial arts world, but never fought again. She has since moved on to become a star in Hollywood, currently featured in the new Disney+ Star Wars live action series The Mandalorian.
While she was forging her way in the acting world, there was still chatter that Carano might return to MMA after the UFC purchased Strikeforce. The key to her return would be a megafight with emerging star Ronda Rousey, who quickly became the UFC’s top draw when they finally put women in the Octagon.
Gina Carano vs. Ronda Rousey was in the works for the UFC
The bout was on the cusp of happening, according to Carano, but was ultimately blown apart by a derogatory text she received from UFC president Dana White.
“When Ronda Rousey became popular, I remember they finally called for a meeting and I walked into this restaurant and (then-owner Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White) looked like two big muscly guys at the table in the middle of Hollywood and I remember thinking, ‘What took you guys so long?’” Carano told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Monday.
Ultimately, Carano said that Fertitta and White offered her a million dollars to fight Rousey in the Octagon. She agreed, but said that after not having fought in five years, she would need a few months to assemble a team that she felt comfortable with to prepare for her return. All she asked is that the UFC not talk about her return until she had a team together.
“So I told them they would have to be able to sit on it for six months, Dana, you can’t say anything and let me get situated with that in mind because that sounds great and I’d love to do it. It was a nice dinner and we all left positive and I left stoked. It made sense. This is my moment to come and be back in there.”
How Dana White blew the Carano vs. Rousey fight apart
Carano said that White then began talking publicly about her return, her need to find a new fight team, etc. Basically, it was everything she asked him not to do.
“He started trying to put on the pressure through the media. It was a bummer because I told him over a text message that it was not what we had talked about. I need time, and now I am going to walk into a gym and people know that’s what I’m doing and I needed to build trust and find people,” Carano recalled.
“Then he kept on doing that and kept on doing that and I’m still searching for a team and feeling all that pressure. Then he sent me a text message that said, ‘This bitch is effing us around,’ or something like that.
“I sent a text message back and said, ‘I think that you sent that to the wrong person.’ He said, ‘I don’t think I did,’ and that was the last conversation that we ever had over text message because I don’t think that was the kind of environment that I wanted to come back into. So I just cut all communication after that text.”
And just like that, the fight between Carano and Rousey was buried.
Carano said that White eventually “genuinely apologized” to her in a face-to-face conversation. There is still the pull to fight again, but with her acting career in full bloom, it isn’t likely to happen.
And though she never fought in the UFC, Carano takes pride in helping to open doors for women in mixed martial arts. Women like Rousey, who might never have found her way to the Octagon had Carano and Cyborg not headlined that Strikeforce event in 2009.