Up until around the summer of 2020, actress and ex-MMA star Gina Carano was continuing her transition from athlete to actor. In all reality, her transition was complete. She left the sport of MMA way back in 2009 following her one professional defeat at the hands of Cris Cyborg. She never went back. But her slow build and hard work as an actress came to fruition when she landed the plum role as Cara Dune in the Disney+ massively huge series The Mandalorian.
After a moment of glory, fans started to do what fans sometimes do; look for chinks in the armor. Gina Carano gave them all the ammunition they’d need.
GINA CARANO: MMA FIGHTER
Gina Carano was an MMA trailblazer and it took one comment to lead her down the MMA road. “I went and saw (ex-boyfriend Kevin Ross) train and the Muay Thai master called me fat. He told me, ‘Hey, baby, you need to train; you’re too fat; you need to train.’ I was overweight at the time, and so I signed up and ever since then my life has changed and taken off,” Carano said in a 2009 with the Las Vegas Sun.
That Muay Thai master was Master Toddy whose real name is Thohsaphol Sitiwatjana. He is known for training big-name MMA fighters such as Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell. Carano began Muay Thai training and once she began fighting for real she amassed a Muay Thai professional record of 12-1-1.
Her near-perfect Muay Tai record brought her an invitation to fight in the first-ever sanctioned female MMA fight. Gina Carano would fight Leiticia Pestovа in the World Extreme Fighting event, a fight that saw her victorious in 38 seconds. She followed that up a few months later when she was invited to fight in the World Pro Fighting show versus Rosi Sexton. It took Carano a little longer, but she knocked out Sexton late in the second round.
Gina Carano has long been thought of as one of the faces of MMA. She was popular before the sport, for females, was popular. She had a legion of fans who adored her and it didn’t hurt that she was a looker. Her early career saw her blitz through opponent after opponent. She had an unblemished 7-0 record when she stepped into the ring against, what she knew would be, her toughest opponent, Cristiane Justino Venâncio, better known as Cris Cyborg.
Cyborg was a complete badass in her own right, coming into the fight with a 7-1 professional MMA record. In what was billed as one of the biggest fights in MMA history, Gina Carano didn’t make it out of the first round, having the fight stopped at 4:59. “The real heartbreak was that I felt I had broken so many other hearts other than my own,” Carano said via MMA Junkie. “Everyone who was with me that night that had so much hope in me. Beyond my family, coaches and training partners, there were people I didn’t even know who were heartbroken, and it gutted me. I felt like I completely failed.” That was until she set up a meeting at the request of one Steven Soderbergh.
The call came from one of Gina Carano’s agents, one she thought didn’t truly give a rip about her. But his voice sounded “like a little boy” with excitement. The agent told her that film director Steven Soderbergh wanted to meet with her. Gina was definitely not in the mood. Still reeling from her loss, she was ready to beg off. Besides, she didn’t even know who Soderbergh was.
“At the time, he could’ve directed porn for all I knew,” Gina Carano remarked. But then the agent gave Carano a little bit of background on Soderbergh, explaining that he had directed “Traffic”, a movie which Carano loved, and immediately she was interested. She took the meeting and her second career was born. But not without heartache.
“It hadn’t been my intention to stop fighting,” Gina Carano explained to MMA Junkie. “I had no clue what all went into movie-making. Actually, when they called me back to do some reshoots after ‘Haywire,’ I said, ‘What’s a reshoot?’ I was in Thailand training.” This was in response to the many MMA fans who saw her abandoning the sport because of her brutal loss to Cyborg.
But in Gina Carano’s eyes, she had hit the pinnacle, even with her loss to Cyborg. A new opportunity was presenting itself to her, one she felt she might not get another chance with, so she decided to blaze a new trail. “So I thought I might as well go explore this new world,” she said. “It became really hard to train after that, because I had a popular name and anywhere I would show up there would be pictures and video of my training, and I hated that. I was still learning and I had become more socially anxious than I had been before. I just wanted to do what I love, and learn in a safe environment. I hadn’t made millions of dollars to afford a private place and team, and I hated acting like I was all that important to want that kind of environment. But I did want privacy. It wasn’t fun for me if I couldn’t just disappear into training.”
But her ties to MMA weren’t quite done. A little over two years after the Cyborg defeat, Cyborg tested positive for steroids after a post-fight drug test in a bout she won against Hiroko Yamanaka. Gina Carano was asked about it by MMA Mania. “I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hurt by the whole thing. That fight with her was definitely the biggest moment of my mixed martial arts (MMA) career and at that time I had people around me telling me she was on steroids and everything. But, if there was a chance that she wasn’t, I never wanted to take anything away from her [win]. She is a wonderful athlete, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little. In fact, I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing that. But, at the same time, she’s a human being and a phenomenal athlete, so maybe someone around her was telling her she needed to do that when she really didn’t.
Carano continues, “Maybe it was someone around her telling her the wrong things, I don’t know. I kind of feel bad for her. Like I said, I could have definitely gone without hearing that because it makes me think well, you know, she just got caught with it this time, but what about all the other times? It’s a bummer. I do feel bad to even have to say that, but I have to be honest: It really stung. It was the biggest moment in my life at the time. Then again, everything happens for a reason. After that I got to go through this beautiful experience making ‘Haywire,’ but even still, it stings.”
Gina Carano did her best to put Cyborg in her rearview. Her first actual role came in a bit part in the direct-to-video movie Blood and Bone, which starred Michael Jai White. Then came Soderbergh’s Haywire and it had the makings of a major hit as it starred, along with Carano, big names such as Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Angarano, and Michael Fassbender.
Though the movie didn’t generate the numbers expected, Gina Carano recalls her fighting scene with Fassbender, after her first on-screen kiss with him. “This wasn’t in the script originally, but he kissed me! Michael came up to me, and he said, “If we’re pretending to be husband and wife [for our cover in an operation], I should kiss you.” And I was like, “Are you kidding?” This is my first day of filming, this is my first kiss of my entire career, and I was like, “I’ve never had a kiss on camera before!” My whole mouth, my face was completely shaking, and I was going, “Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!” But it was nice. It was nice just to be present with him, and he was so genuine, and so beautiful,” she told Vulture. But she also had a knock down drag out scene with Fassbender. “Michael’s crazy. We were brutal to each other. He was slamming me into the wall. He slammed my head so hard, I lost it for a second — I went white. And at one point, our knees clashed, he got a limp. And this was the first fight scene we did for the film.”
Obviously, Gina Carano loved her time on set with Fassbender and company. Her acting career moved forward, and she found herself starring in Fast & Furious 6. Then came In the Blood, Heist, and Extraction. She showed up in Deadpool as Angel Dust. She followed those up with Kickboxer: Vengence, Scorched Earth, and Daughter of the Wolf. It was at this point in her career that the Mouse House came knocking and that is a knock one answers. She did and Cara Dune followed and with it, a whole bunch of controversy.
GINA CARANO COURTS CONTROVERSY
Gina Carano was the only actor Jon Favreau had in mind for the part of Cara Dune. He created the part for her and even named the character after her (Cara-no). His idea was to create, according to Carano, a “new soldier of women.” She told The Hollywood Reporter, “He wanted my character to be this new soldier of women, and he wanted her to have an impact. For me, it’s been a way to embrace who I am, and if the biggest complaint is that I’m too strong, it’s really a compliment to me.” And it worked.
Fans loved Cara Dune as did Favreau and Disney. In fact, there has been plenty of rumor going around that Gina Carano would be getting her own show as Cara Dune. While that may still happen, Carano’s recent Twitter war probably has not helped matters.
The #FireGinaCarano hashtag started over the summer of 2020 when fans accused Gina Carano of being silent during the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement. Carano came out guns blazing, denying all accusations but it didn’t matter to some. Silence, in her case, is not golden. The cancel culture has spoken.
Gina Carano, for her part, didn’t help matters but only made them worse for herself when in November 2020, when she was accused of going after the transgender community. Pushed to include pronouns (something which is a common practice among transgender social media to help avoid misgendering) in her Twitter biography, Carano refused to do so. The outrage hit and because of it Gina Carano decided to change her bio to include “beep/bop/boop.” She was feeding the fire and the fire grew.
She responded to one Twitter attack with, “Pedro (Pascal, her Mandalorian co-star) & I spoke & he helped me understand why people were putting them in their bios. I didn’t know before but I do now. I won’t be putting them in my bio but good for all you who choose to. I stand against bullying, especially the most vulnerable & [support] freedom to choose.”
But the nicety didn’t last. More venom came her way and Gina Carano had no problem responding. “They’re mad cuz I won’t put pronouns in my bio to show my support for trans lives. After months of harassing me in every way. I decided to put 3 VERY controversial words in my bio.. beep/bop/boop. I’m not against trans lives at all. They need to find less abusive representation.”
Another of her defending tweets read: “Beep/bop/boop has zero to do with mocking trans people 🤍 & 💯 to do with exposing the bullying mentality of the mob that has taken over the voices of many genuine causes. I want people to know you can take hate with a smile. So BOOP you for misunderstanding. 😊 #AllLoveNoHate.”
For the moment, Gina Carano continues to play Cara Dune on The Mandalorian and there is nothing to suggest that will change even though Carano continues to fill her Twitter with controversial anti-COVID vaccination tweets and voter fraud tweets. Whether Disney will decide to sit on her a bit and limit her social media remains to be seen.