by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Over the past year, you would be hard pressed to find a fighter whose star has risen as far and as fast as female MMA’s Gina Carano.

After years of success in the Muay Thai discipline, Carano made her MMA debut last year and successively got onto bigger shows, winning each time out and impressing all with a dominant striking game and an intrepid ground defense.

But her success doesn’t stop there.

After a breakout performance at this past February’s EliteXC event on Showtime, Gina spent the fallowing months pursuing various outside the ring avenues, including doing fighting commentary, interviews, and taping the recently debuted season of Oxygen’s “Fight Girls” television series.

Upon returning home from Thailand where she taped the finale of “Fight Girls,” Carano was to return to action at this month’s EliteXC/K-1 Premium Dynamite show in Los Angeles against always-tough Jan Finney, when illness struck, forcing Gina out of the fight.

Now, with her health back, Carano is looking to return to action soon, as she commented on recently to MMAWeekly during a break in training at her new gym, Xtreme Couture, as well as the other happenings in the whirlwind months fallowing EliteXC in February.

MMAWeekly: First off Gina, tell us how you’re doing health-wise.

Gina Carano: I’m healthy, training and feeling great. I was feeling better like a week before the fight [against Jan Finney], but that would have only given me a week to train for it, so [I had to withdraw]. I’m feeling good and I’m looking forward to my next fight.

MMAWeekly: Regardless of what people may think, Jan Finney isn’t someone you should go in against under prepared.

Gina Carano: I don’t take anyone lightly. I know I’ve got a big target on me, so I don’t care what a person’s record is, I’m going to train hard and be completely healthy for it.

MMAWeekly: I know before preparations for that fight you had joined Randy Couture’s Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. Tell us how that came to be.

Gina Carano: I made the decision because in every interview I’ve done people are like, “Who do you look up to? Who is your role model?” And I never said anybody, because I just wasn’t so involved in the sport that I felt I could give a good answer. Then for the Showtime [EliteXC] fight, I’m sitting, chilling back in my room getting ready for my fight, and Randy Couture walks in. He sits down next to me and is like, “So, you know why we do this, right?” And I’m like, “Yeah,” and he’s like, “You better go out there and have fun.” And that like totally calmed me. It was like my pre-fight talk and it was only like two sentences long and totally rejuvenated me.

I’m like, “Heck yeah, Randy Couture just walked in and said that,” and for sure, I had all the confidence in the world. It just put me in a good mindset, so after that I wondered who I’d like to train with, who do I respect, because, I’ve never had anyone put MMA together for me. I’ve always had Jiu-Jitsu here, and Muay Thai there, going different places. And Randy opened up a new gym here in Vegas, and I thought I would do anything to train and just be around someone like that.

So, my manager, Bardia [Ghahremani], called and Randy said, “Of course, you can come train with me and the guys at pro practice.” So, I went, and it’s just an awesome team around here, I mean, the sign on the font door says, “Leave your ego at the door,” and Randy’s wife Kim has been so, so supportive. And it’s nice to have another female in the fight world that’s supportive.

I mean, she does amazing things over there and it’s nice to have a female there, because it’s such a male-dominated sport, and on top of it there’s just great guys at the gym to go with it. So, I’m just so excited, and happy to be here.

MMAWeekly: And of course I’m sure it’s because of Randy’s ears too, I mean, chicks dig the ears.

Gina Carano: [Laughs] Yeah…he loves his ears, he brags about them all the time.

MMAWeekly: Okay, let’s talk about the new season of “Fight Girls” on Oxygen that debuted last weekend. First off, tell us how you feel about the taping of this season, compared to previous incarnations.

Gina Carano: The first “Fight Girls” that we did, did not take up as much time as this one. I was actually the lucky one. I was a mentor, and I was a part of it more behind the scenes than in front, working with the girls away from the camera, and they were awesome girls, so it was great.

There’s a lot that goes into coaching someone and being there for them the week of their fight. We had a different fighter every week, and they were nervous about being filmed, so I was behind the scenes helping them out. In front of the camera it was seriously like 12-hour days filming, and then the behind the scenes stuff, for eight weeks – six weeks in Las Vegas and two weeks in Thailand.

And it’s pretty interesting, not only do they [the girls] have to worry about their fight, but also getting up, getting their interviews done, everything – I’m proud of the girls, and I don’t know how they did it. At times it was seriously difficult, but it was good and fun. The production crew was really awesome and the girls had great attitudes, so it made the experience a lot funner.

MMAWeekly: Having seen the first episode now, what do you feel about how they put it together?

Gina Carano: I think it looks really good. It keeps getting better with the editing and everything. I’d like to see a little bit more training and the stuff that goes into fighting, so I hope in future episodes we’ll get to see more of that, because we trained non-stop, like two times a day.

I thought it was real good, not cheesy, and all the girls came off really well. We had a really good group to work with and it turned out really well, so it was all good.

MMAWeekly: Now, even though it focuses on Muay Thai, after having seen the first episode myself, I think a lot of MMA fans would really like it. I think it compares favorably to “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series on SpikeTV.

Gina Carano: If the fans like “The Ultimate Fighter,” they’ll really like “Fight Girls,” because it’s a fresh look at fighting from a different perspective.

MMAWeekly: Overall it seems like a very positive experience all the way around.

Gina Carano: Yeah, I think my favorite part about participating in this whole thing, was being in these girls’ corner. A couple of them for two fights, and the others just for one, but it was just a blessing to me.

It really, honestly, was a blessing every time I got to know one of the girls, and then I backed them fully, watched them fight and felt just so proud to be there. I’d never done anything like that, so it was a real eye-opener for me.

MMAWeekly: Okay, even with everything you have going on; I know you’re anxious to fight again. When can we expect that to happen?

Gina Carano: Probably the very beginning of September, like September 1st, I think. So that’s in about two and a half months, so it’s a little ways away.

I just got into a really good system of training lately, which I hadn’t been able to get into because I’d been filming and stuff. I’ve got like this second wind and just want to train, and really see where I can take my body when it’s in shape. Because, I don’t really feel like I’ve touched on what I can do. I don’t think I’ve ever been in complete awesome shape for a fight.

I’ve been talking about it for a long time, but I really am going to do it this time. I want to get my technique down, I’m just training, I’m not working, just training and this is my life now – so it’s going to be cool. I’m not focusing on anything else.

I’m prepared to take things as they come. I know other things are going to come, whether it’s in TV or whatever, but for the next two and a half months I’m just going to focus on training, and if people want to fallow me around with a camera, that’s fine, but I’m really just going to be focused on training and be ready to go for September.

MMAWeekly: Good stuff, Gina. Thanks for taking time out, as always, is there anything you want to say before we go?

Gina Carano: I really want to say thank you to all the people that have shown me love from the start of my career. I don’t get know how I get such a loyal group. They’re very loyal and so supportive, and it really makes a difference hearing positive things. People aren’t hating on me…well…maybe some of them are, but a lot of people are really positive on me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

I love my gyms, Randy Couture’s and Master Toddy’s; my jiu-jitsu and boxing trainers, Scott Barry and Chris Ben; and my family and God – I have the best people in my life right now and I couldn’t be happier.

Keep your eyes out for me in September, because I’m coming with a whole new gameplan. I’m going to be a completely different fighter. Thank you for your patience, it’s all going to be worth it, for sure.