The Non MMA Fan’s Guide to Gina Carano

Gina Carano

(Photo via Zimbio. And yes, this is another rip-off of a much-better article. Deal with it.)

By Ben Goldstein

Tomorrow marks the long-delayed theatrical release of Haywire, a movie we’ve been huffing and puffing about since 2009. Obviously, the only reason we care about this film is because of its lead actress, Gina Carano. If you’re a regular reader of — or any MMA site for that matter — you’re already fully aware of who Gina Carano is. But maybe you’re here by accident, or because you found one of our articles while looking for information on the movie. (And if that’s the case, we welcome you. Some of our most loyal readers came to us through random late-night searches for “How do I get traps like Tom Hardy in Warrior?“)

At any rate, you may be wondering, “Who is this mysterious brunette with the gravelly voice? And why haven’t I heard of her before?” Great questions, my new friend. Let’s run it down…

Who is Gina Carano?
Gina Carano is a Muay Thai kickboxer turned MMA fighter turned actress. She also did a stint as an American Gladiator in 2008, where she was feared for her brutality towards old people. And now she’s starring in an action flick called Haywire, in which she plays Mallory Kane, a super-spy betrayed by her own team. The movie hits theaters on Friday.

Has she been in other movies before this one?
Technically, yes. In 2009, she appeared in a low-budget street-fighting movie called Blood and Bone, along with Michael Jai White, Kimbo Slice, and Bob Sapp. Other than that, Gina’s entertainment resume is limited to video games, documentaries, reality shows, and magazine covers.

So how did an athlete with virtually zero movie experience get cast in the lead role of a prominent action movie?
You can credit Haywire‘s director, Steven Soderbergh, who discovered Gina while flipping through the channels one day and seeing one of her fights: “I see Gina coming out. She’s got the cornrows; she’s got the warrior affect. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’ She destroyed this woman in a cage, and I just hadn’t seen anything like this before. I kinda filed it away. I just thought it she was a fascinating combination of elements.”

Then, Soderbergh got fired from the film Moneyball, and Gina got TKO’d in a Strikeforce title fight, and suddenly both of them had some free time on their hands. Soderbergh reached out, and things progressed fairly quickly from there. But Steven Soderbergh’s weird like that. He had previously cast Sasha Grey as the lead actress in his 2009 film The Girlfriend Experience, even though all of Grey’s previous film roles involved…well, Google her if you really want to know.

Was Gina a good fighter in her prime?
Definitely. She went 12-1-1 as a Muay Thai kickboxer, then won her first seven MMA fights against legitimate opponents like Rosi Sexton, Tonya Evinger, and Kaitlin Young. But she’ll be remembered not so much for her skill in the cage as for her significance — she was the sport’s first bonafide female star, and is still the biggest female star that MMA has ever seen. Her May 2008 fight against Young was the first women’s MMA bout to be broadcast on network television.

But that one girl beat the crap out of her right? “Rita Robot,” or something?
You mean Cristiane “Cris Cyborg” Santos. Yes, she indeed beat the crap out of Gina. But keep in mind that Cris Cyborg may have been on steroids at the time, which calls into the question the legitimacy of the win.

Where’s Gina from?
She was born in Dallas County, Texas. Her father, Glenn, was a backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. (Glenn Carano is better known to MMA fans as “the hero who dropped the towel.”)

How did a pretty girl like Gina get into fighting in the first place?
Her ex-boyfriend trained with acclaimed Muay Thai instructor Master Toddy, and brought Gina by the gym one day. Upon first meeting her, Toddy said, and we’re quoting here, “Oh no baby, baby you fat, you need to lose weight!” That was enough to inspire Gina to get in shape. If you need help imagining what a fat Gina Carano might look like, click here or here.

Has she dated anybody famous?
Does the name “Kit Cope” mean anything to you?

No, she’s never dated anybody famous.

What’s up with the scars on her left arm?
Nobody knows. It’s a long story that she hasn’t shared yet.

Is Gina Carano ever going to return to MMA?
She says she’s not sure, and has expressed interest in pursuing more movie roles rather than go back to her old life as a cage-fighter. But according to MMA journalists Jim Genia and Matthew Polly — whose opinions we generally respect — Gina’s performance in Haywire is so bad that future film opportunities might not present themselves. Overall, reviews of the movie from MMA news outlets have tended to be less-than-glowing, although the action scenes look pleasingly brutal.

My God, is this Gina Carano?
No, that’s Jaime Koeppe, but that photo is commonly mistaken for Gina by desperate fans. Sorry to crush your dreams, guys.