by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Women’s mixed martial arts is continuing to grow with the support of organizations like EliteXC and Bodog Fight putting them on the main stage and showing that they can throw down just as ably as the men can. While many may argue who is the best fighter in women’s MMA, no one can argue that Gina Carano is by far the most popular and she is back training full time, preparing for her return to the cage on Sept. 15 at the EliteXC show in Hawaii.

Gina has been popping up all over the place including on the Oxygen network reality show “Fight Girls” which has garnered much attention of late, showing women training and fighting in Muay Thai kickboxing with the chance to compete in Thailand later in the season. Gina serves as one of the coaches and trainers on the show, working along side her long time Muay Thai coach, Master Toddy.

“It’s a different position for me, mentoring and coaching fighters,” said Carano about her experience on the show. “I feel like I’m just up and coming myself so I don’t really feel that qualified to give that much advice, but I just tried to be there for those girls emotionally and give them a few pointers here and there. But it was really a huge learning experience for me and all the girls took to it really well.”

Despite her modesty, Carano brings a feverish pace to the show, teaching and coaching the girls to victory, while still learning the sport along the way.

While fighting is her primary focus, fans have also had the pleasure of seeing Gina doing commentary on the recent EliteXC internet broadcast of the prelim fights for the Shamrock/Baroni pay-per-view.

Again, Gina stayed modest when the subject came up in a recent interview with MMAWeekly Radio, but she received great reviews by fans and critics alike.

“Whenever I was commentating I would just freeze up and get quiet and shy, and I really am just a shy person naturally, so its really hard for me to do interviews and stuff, but to put me in that commentating position I was really proud of myself, but it was hard,” said Carano about her commentating experience.

Gina awaits her time to fight again. She was originally scheduled to be a part of the Shamrock/Baroni show, but when she traveled to Thailand with the “Fight Girls” show she came back sick and wasn’t able to compete at her highest level, so she pushed back the fight.

“I actually went to see the WEC fight and I was standing there and all of a sudden the whole room started going dark on me and I was like ‘wow they’re dimming the lights’ and then my body started giving way and I just realized that I got really dehydrated,” said Carano about her sickness. “I got back from Thailand and jumped right back into training and I was sick. I got sick half way through that trip and traveling like that and I got stomach flu. Things like that happen and I wanted to play it smart and I felt like me and Julie (Kedzie) put on such a good show last time that I didn’t want to go out there and not give it my all because I wasn’t physically capable to, so I thought I’d just make a good decision there and pull out of that fight.”

Since that time, Gina has made a move to train her mixed martial arts game at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, one of the best training centers in the U.S., run by UFC heavyweight champion and MMA legend, Randy “The Natural” Couture. It was meeting Randy at her last fight in EliteXC that prompted the move for Gina to the new gym.

“For my last fight in Mississippi against Julie, Randy Couture came in and sat down next to me and was like ‘you know why we do this right?’ and I was like yeah and he said ‘so have fun out there,'” said Carano. “And just that little pre-fight pep talk and I have so much respect for him as a person and as a fighter so that just made me feel good mentally in myself to go out there. So for my next fight, I was like who would I like to train with and who would be my ideal training person to look up to and I thought of Randy Couture.”

With a team like Xtreme Couture behind her and her Muay Thai coach Master Toddy always by her side, it seems as if the sky’s the limit for Gina Carano. Recently, Gary Shaw had some very complimentary things to say about the newest star in EliteXC and apparently fans can expect to see her in that organization for a long time to come.

“Gina’s future is bright. She signed a multi-year contract with us,” stated EliteXC president Gary Shaw. “I know her personally and her family as well. She is a good person inside and out, pretty person inside and out, and she can really fight. We said from the beginning we were going to make her the face of MMA, and Showtime, to Ken Hershman’s credit, took a leap of faith in both myself and in Gina and decided at the last minute to put her on (the main card) in February. It was done in the press conference upstairs when Gina was doing a photo shoot with other athletes, and I said to Ken, ‘Come on, let’s try it.’ He met her and he green lighted it there. Really, it is a combination. Without Ken Hershman green lighting a woman’s card, which was a huge leap of faith, trust me, nobody would know Gina Carano today. She would be somebody from Reno and lives in Las Vegas. She is a very, very important asset to EliteXC.”

Now with EliteXC behind her and she is back to being healthy, the opponent is the next order of business for Gina Carano, but right now that is still up in the air.

“I’m still kind of waiting on it,” said Carano about her next fight. “I guess Jan Finney and Shayna Baszler are fighting this weekend on the internet card for EliteXC [Baszler won the fight by arm bar] so I might fight the winner of them or I might fight somebody else, I’m not quite sure yet.”

One thing fans can be sure of is that Gina Carano will be a force for women’s mixed martial arts now and in the future.