Gina Joy Carano (born April 16, 1982 ) is an American actress and former mixed martial artist. She competed in EliteXC and Strikeforce from 2006 to 2009, where she compiled a 7–1 record. Her popularity led to her being called the "face of women's MMA", although Carano rejected this title. She and Cris Cyborg were the first women to headline a major MMA event during their 2009 Strikeforce bout. Carano retired from competition after her first professional MMA defeat to Cyborg.
Carano faced Elaina Maxwell at Strikeforce: Triple Threat on December 8, 2006. She won the fight via unanimous decision. Carano proved critics wrong when she defeated Maxwell for the second time; the first victory coming in a Muay Thai bout. The fight was the first female fight in Strikeforce. She fought on the February 10, 2007 Showtime EliteXC card, defeating Julie Kedzie via unanimous decision in what was called the "Fight of the Night". The fight was the first televised female fight on Showtime. Her scheduled bout against Jan Finney at the EliteXC/K-1 Dynamite!! USA event on June 2, 2007, was canceled due to illness. The Fight Network and other news outlets reported that she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for dehydration while attending a World Extreme Cagefighting event as a spectator.
Carano fought on the September 15, 2007 Showtime EliteXC card, where she defeated Tonya Evinger via rear-naked choke for her first career win by submission. Carano impressed critics by holding her own on the ground before submitting Evinger late in the first round. Carano defeated former HOOKnSHOOT Champion Kaitlin Young at EliteXC: Primetime on May 31, 2008. A day before the fight, Carano failed to make weight for her fight after weighing in at 144.5 pounds (65.5 kg). Although most MMA organizations set weight classes at 135 lb (61 kg) (bantamweight) and 145 lb (66 kg) (featherweight), EliteXC opted to create a women's weight class at 140 pounds (64 kg). Carano agreed to forfeit 12.5% of her "show" purse to Young, and the fight remained on the card.
Carano was profiled in a feature story for the ESPN series E:60. She was voted "Hottest Woman In America" by Big Biz Magazine in the Spring 2008 issue. On May 13, 2008, "Gina Carano" was the fastest-rising search on Google and third-most-searched person on Yahoo!, and ranked no. 5 on Yahoo!'s "Top Ten Influential Women of 2008" list.
Leading up to her fight against Kelly Kobold, there was much controversy over whether Carano would make weight for the fight, as she had fought only once in the past year and had failed to make weight. Carano assured critics that she would be able to make weight since she had hired a nutritionist to help with her dieting. At the weigh-in for the Kobold fight on October 3, 2008, Carano weighed in at 142.75 pounds (64.75 kg) on her first attempt. After removing her clothing, a towel-covered Carano weighed in a second time at 142.5 pounds (64.6 kg). The towel was removed, and on her third attempt, Carano weighed 141 pounds (64 kg) and successfully made weight.
Carano starred in the 2005 film Ring Girls. Based on true events, Ring Girls is about five American women from Las Vegas who attempt to fight the best Muay Thai fighters in the world. Along with Lisa King, Carano served as a mentor to aspiring fighters in the 2007 Oxygen reality series Fight Girls. She appeared as "Crush" on the NBC show American Gladiators, in which she starred in the workout video of the show along with Monica Carlson (Jet), Jennifer Widerstrom (Phoenix), Michael O'Hearn (Titan), Tanoai Reed (Toa) and Don "Hollywood" Yates (Wolf). The DVD was released on December 16, 2008.
In May 2009, Carano was ranked no. 16 on Maxim's Hot 100 list. She is one of the cover athletes along with Serena Williams for the October 19, 2009, edition of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue.
Carano has not fought since August 2009 and is not scheduled for any upcoming events. Carano is still under contract with the UFC through her old Strikeforce contract and has four fights remaining on that contract.
It was announced at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields that Carano's fight against Cris Cyborg would take place on August 15, 2009, at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg. Strikeforce created their first Women's Championship for the bout. Though the 145-pound division is most commonly referred to as featherweight, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated that the title would be known as the Strikeforce Women's Lightweight Championship. The title was later renamed the Strikeforce Women's Middleweight Championship. Carano lost the fight against Cyborg by TKO at 4:59 in the first round, giving her first-ever loss in her professional MMA career.
In September 2009, Carano landed the leading role in the spy thriller Haywire (2011), directed by Steven Soderbergh. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press stated: "[Carano's] dialogue delivery may seem a bit stiff—and she has acknowledged that Soderbergh made some tweaks to her voice in post-production—but she has tremendous presence: an intriguing mix of muscular power and eye-catching femininity." Newsweek said Carano's martial-arts experience gives her "an unparalleled physicality" in the role. She described her knockout fight with co-star Michael Fassbender:
In November 2010, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated he was hopeful that she would return in 2011. Carano's return was formally announced in February 2011, and Strikeforce announced at its April 9, 2011, event in San Diego that Carano would make her return against Sarah D'Alelio on June 18, during the Overeem vs. Werdum Strikeforce event in Dallas. This bout would have been held by Zuffa, who have been detractors of women's MMA in the past. Critics asserted that the reason for the turnaround was Carano's marketability. However, the fight did not take place. Initially, Strikeforce announced Carano failed her pre-fight medical examination and the fight was pulled from the card. Later, it became public that Carano was medically cleared by the Athletic Commission but was removed from the card for other reasons.
In 2012, Carano was cast as the lead in an all-female ensemble action film, tentatively titled The ExpendaBelles, that would have been part of The Expendables film franchise. Producer Adi Shankar said, "I don't know how I'm supposed to make a movie that is supposed to be the female version of The Expendables without Gina Carano in it. It would be like making Twix without caramel or Jamba Juice without Jamba." The project has yet to materialize.
In February 2012, Carano was cast in In the Blood (2014), an action thriller directed by John Stockwell.
In July 2013, she and comic book creator Rob Liefeld announced they were working on a big-screen adaptation of Liefied's Avengelyne in which Carano would star as the titular character. Carano appeared in the 2013–2014 Fox series Almost Human episode "Unbound", where she played the part of an XRN combat android named Danica. She co-starred in the 2015 film Extraction, and she played Angel Dust in the 2016 film Deadpool.
In April 2014, during an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show Carano said she was considering a return to MMA. In September 2014, Dana White of the UFC said contract negotiations with Carano had stalled. During her appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience 690 podcast, Ronda Rousey said a fight between Gina Carano and her had been planned for December 2014, but never materialized.
In 2018, she was cast in The Mandalorian, Lucasfilm's first live-action Star Wars television series. She portrayed the character Cara Dune with a first appearance in the fourth episode of the first season titled "Chapter 4: Sanctuary". Carano initially believed she would be playing the role of a female Wookiee, and was surprised to "find that [she] was one of the few people that you were actually going to see her face." She played the role in seasons 1 and 2.
Transitioning from the ring to the screen, Carano landed her first major role as the lead of the action film Haywire (2011), which was followed by appearances in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) and Deadpool (2016). Carano also portrayed Cara Dune in the first two seasons of the Disney+ space Western series The Mandalorian from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, following a series of controversial posts she made on social media, Lucasfilm fired Carano.
In February 2021, Carano shared an Instagram post that compared "hating someone for their political views" to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust and included an image taken during the Lviv pogroms. Many critics interpreted the post as comparing American conservatives to Jews in Nazi Germany. Shortly afterward, Lucasfilm stated that Carano was no longer employed by the company, saying that "her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable". Her posting of a series of tweets in which she mocked the use of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States was also cited by Lucasfilm as well as her repeated belief of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.
Lucasfilm announced in February 2021 that Carano would not appear in future Star Wars projects following a series of controversial posts she made to social media, stating "... her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable." The same day she was dropped by the United Talent Agency.
In May 2021, Carano appeared as a guest on an episode of the show Running Wild with Bear Grylls.
A week later, Carano announced she would be developing, producing, and starring in a new film project with conservative media company The Daily Wire. The film, White Knuckle, was to be about revenge by a survivor of an attempted murder by a serial killer. The film was scheduled to begin production in October 2021 in Tennessee, Utah, and Montana. In the U.S., it was to be released exclusively to subscribers of The Daily Wire, and was to be released internationally by Voltage Pictures.
In November 2021, Carano was tapped to play a secret service agent in My Son Hunter, a biopic on Hunter Biden directed by Robert Davi.
In February 2022, Carano explained her offending post, saying that she "shared a meme, I translated into: Don't let the government pit you against each other or history tells us that could go wrong." Some fans and commentators contrasted Carano's firing with fellow The Mandalorian cast member Pedro Pascal suffering no consequence for making comparisons between the treatment of Jews in concentration camps and the treatment of undocumented migrant children at ICE detention facilities in the US. Carano was defended by The Mandalorian co-star Bill Burr, who described her as "an absolute sweetheart" and criticized her firing.
In February 2022, Carano suggested that the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine was a government conspiracy to control the public through fear, started because "they" had "lost control of the covid narrative".
By fall 2021, the White Knuckle project had been cancelled at Carano's behest, due to her unwillingness to comply with Hollywood's COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements. She stated, "After we announced our first project this summer, the Hollywood unions started debating vaccine mandates for cast and crew, and I wasn't into that. I don't believe anybody gets to make your medical choices for you, and I'm not willing to force masks and vaccines on anyone else." Daily Wire co-founder and co-CEO Jeremy Boreing recalled Carano's demand to "find a different movie", and her statement, "To hell with it, I'll quit my union. Let's make a movie up in Montana where they can't get after us." The group began production on the replacement film, a Western entitled Terror on the Prairie, that was released exclusively to Daily Wire subscribers in June 2022.
In late 2020, Carano clashed with activists on Twitter, who criticized her lack of public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, leading to accusations of racism. Weeks later, after facing calls from some fans to put her gender pronouns in her Twitter profile, she added the words "beep/bop/boop". This ridicule led to accusations of transphobia. She later apologized and removed them, saying that The Mandalorian actor Pedro Pascal had helped her understand the use of preferred pronouns.