Gina Carano has been very busy over the past few years, landing roles in several feature films including "Fast & Furious 6" as well as her latest movie, "In The Blood," which opens on April 4.
Ever since her last fight in Strikeforce in 2009, Carano has turned her focus solely to acting because she needed to dedicate herself to that art 100 percent if she was ever going to make a career out of it. Right away, Carano landed action roles like in the movie "Haywire," where she starred opposite Hollywood A-listers like Michael Fassbender and Bill Paxton.
She’s still doing the action-movie thing these days. But Carano turned a corner in her latest movie, in which she was finally able to drop the tough-girl facade for at least one major scene, and it opened her eyes to what was possible in the future.
"One of the things I really like doing that shows up in ‘In the Blood’ is an emotional scene, which it was so hard to get to that place, but once I got there and I did it, I’m so proud of that," Carano told FOX Sports on Monday. "There’s fight scenes that I’ve done that I’m really, really proud of, but for that moment, that day, walking away I felt, ‘That’s what it’s about.’
"I think that the world and the entertainment business makes it really hard. Because they see you’re good at something and they want to see you do that over and over. Sometimes actors and actresses say, ‘That’s what I’m good at, that’s where I’m staying, that’s where I make my money,’ but for me personally, I just need to constantly be growing."
Beyond her role in ‘In the Blood,’ Carano is definitely aware of the other reason her name has been in the news so much lately. UFC commentator Joe Rogan managed to single-handedly put Carano at the tip of the tongue of every fan and reporter when he teased that the UFC was on the verge of making a huge move in the women’s division, possibly matching up champion Ronda Rousey with one of the biggest fights in UFC history.
UFC president Dana White immediately threw water on Rogan’s flames, but where there’s smoke there’s fire, and it sounds as if Carano isn’t opposed to the idea of coming back to fighting if she gets the right offer. Details were sketchy because of confidentiality, but the first-ever face of women’s MMA definitely didn’t shut down the idea of fighting in the UFC one day soon.
"I don’t mind it at all. I’ve never retired. I’ve never officially said that," Carano said. "For some reason a part of me has always kept it open. I don’t know, there’s a certain part of me that thinks if circumstances were right, and I could keep doing what I’m trying to make my future into, that’s an ideal world. If circumstances were right, you never know. I’m very open to it."
The circumstances could mean any number of scenarios, but first and foremost Carano still wants to be able to pursue her acting career without sacrificing the foundation she’s built in the past five years. While she couldn’t reveal the nature of how far her discussions have gone about coming back, Carano did say there have been some interesting conversations already, and she’s open to the possibility of returning if everything falls perfectly into place.
"I feel like I can’t say too much. I’ve got all this information that if I could just speak freely, this is actually what’s going on," Carano teased. "I wish I could open up my mind and tell you exactly the things that I’ve seen and the conversations that I’ve had, but I think to sum it up in a nice, safe way for me is if circumstances were right, and if it’s a good enough circumstance (I would come back) because my first love is MMA.
"It’s not something that I ever really like to share with people, it’s something that I did because it made me feel good. I had no idea how popular MMA was ever going to get. It’s just something that really straightened me out. It wasn’t yoga, it wasn’t anything else, and it still is something that I practice and I love to train. Of course I haven’t trained for a fight in a long time, so it gets kind of interesting when these rumors start coming up. But if I ever did do something like that, I would want the circumstances to be correct and right."
Carano understands that she’s been out of action for five years, and with that time off comes a whole lot of dulled edges and ring rust. To return to fighting, Carano would need to sharpen her skills with a new fight team and a slew of new training partners.
There is also the financial component because if Carano drops out of the Hollywood scene for six months to prepare and get ready for a fight, that means money out of her pocket and a lot of potential acting opportunities missed.
I’m more of a fan of MMA now than I’ve ever been. I’m saying if the circumstance was right, I’d definitely consider it. If the circumstance were right
— Gina Carano on a potential return to fighting
"I would definitely take something like that extremely seriously," Carano said. "I would dedicate myself to it, and need the time because you’re taking somebody who hasn’t fought in a while, that hasn’t been in the fight camp-type environment; and it would have to be done in a time where there would be enough time for me to get ready for that and be able to support myself during that time because that’s all I’d be doing is taking that seriously, and it would take me away from other projects or potential projects that I’ve been working this far in my life to get to.
"Sometimes I look at it like this — what do you want to do in life? By the time you’re 80 and you look back at what you’ve done and the decisions that you made, you want to have pride and respect in what you’ve done. Being a paid athlete and doing something like that in such a professional way because MMA has grown, I mean you’ve got nutritionists, you’ve got the research to back up what works and what doesn’t work, and it’s such a beautiful thing now. MMA fighters are some of the best fighters in the world, and now they’re being treated like it."
When Carano first started fighting, not only were women not competing in the UFC, but they were barely a blip on the MMA radar. Now in just a few short years, there are two women’s divisions in the UFC, Rousey is one of the sport’s biggest stars, and women will headline an upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Carano can’t deny that she would love to be a part of it all over again just to see the growth of the seeds she helped to plant all those years ago. Everyone in the sport seems enthusiastic about a Gina Carano return to MMA, and she’s willing to entertain the idea as well — as long as it’s the right opportunity.
"When I was fighting, I feel kind of ancient sometimes, because I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s not the way it was!’ It was hard to walk in the gym and have another woman to train with, and now it’s like they have groups of females that train together, and there’s so many good females out there. They’ve all been really positive, and I really appreciate Cris Cyborg saying that and Ronda saying that (they would like me to come back); it makes me feel really kind of warm," Carano said about a potential return.
"I’m more of a fan of MMA now than I’ve ever been. I’m saying if the circumstance was right, I’d definitely consider it — if the circumstance were right."