Women’s MMA Thriving With or Without Gina Carano

December 23, 2011

August 15, 2009.

It’s been over two years since Gina Carano last stepped foot inside an MMA cage, and with the debut of her new film “Haywire” hitting theaters in January 2012, it’s not likely she’ll be fighting anytime soon either.

While Carano and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker have maintained that she will be back at some point in 2012, there are no guarantees, especially with a budding movie career on the horizon.

For several years while under the EliteXC and then Strikeforce banners, Carano was the face of women’s MMA, drawing in huge crowds for both live audiences and viewers tuning in at home.

Despite Carano always shying away from that moniker, she was the biggest star women’s MMA had ever seen.

But with Carano gone for the past two-plus years, the women’s divisions have moved on without her, and to be quite frank, they are thriving without her.

The last opponent to face Carano, Cris “Cyborg” Santos has continued her tornado like destruction of any and every opponent that Strikeforce has put in front of her. Miesha Tate recently claimed the Strikeforce bantamweight women’s title, and has become one of the most recognized faces in the sport.

Add to that the recent injection of former Olympian Ronda Rousey, who may just be the “Chael Sonnen of women’s MMA” along with fighters like Sarah Kaufman, Alexis Davis, among others, the female divisions seem to be doing just fine without Carano around, and she would be the first one to smile about that.

“Gina will be the first one to tell you this, she’s happy for the success of the female division,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker told MMAWeekly Radio. “She told me personally that she wants to keep fighting, this was before the movie was started, but we got her back into the cage for the one fight with Cyborg and she wants to keep promoting female mixed martial arts. She’s a believer and she’s going to continue to support it.”

Carano’s success seemed to be a precursor to the future of the women’s division. Her fights on CBS grossed huge ratings, as well as her fights on Showtime that drew mass audiences. The success has been passed along to other fighters as well.

Marloes Coenen’s 2011 title defense against Liz Carmouche actually spiked higher ratings than the main event between Dan Henderson and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante back in March. The fact is women’s fighting has been proven to be a commodity, and Coker knows it’s a valuable asset with Strikeforce in their new deal with Showtime.

“Gina (Carano) had one of the highest rated showings in the history of Showtime for a mixed martial arts show. We have proven and Showtime has proven that female fighters should be in the cage fighting mixed martial arts. They’re talented, they can draw great ratings, they put on great fights, and that’s going to continue,” said Coker.

“When you have a new girl like Ronda (Rousey), you have Miesha (Tate), you have Cyborg, hopefully Gina will come back at some point after she gets her movie out of the way, and we’re going to have a healthy female division for the fans to tune in and watch on Showtime.”

The hope is obviously for Carano to return to fighting in 2012, but if that doesn’t happen, Strikeforce is confident their women’s division will thrive regardless.

“If you look at the champions and the stars that we’ve built on Showtime since Gina has left and started her movie career,” said Coker, “I think that we’ve proven once again we can keep building new stars, new faces, and great fighters and great talent and continue to get great ratings on Showtime for female mixed martial arts.”

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
For more
UFC News and UFC Rumors, follow MMAWeekly.com on Twitter and Facebook.