“I’m being invaded!” Carano bursts out laughing, throwing her hands up near her face like a classic over-actor.
The fighter has been the center of attention for weeks as she is the centerpiece of the promotional efforts for Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg. Carano’s fight against Cristiane Cyborg Santos will be the first female MMA fight to headline a televised MMA card. It will also represent the first female MMA championship bout in a major promotion. MMA fans and men’s magazines are smitten with her or at least who they think she is, the hot chick who fights, but she’s not so taken with herself.
Carano sits on the apron of the American Kickboxing Academy’s ring and ruminates on fame, how she acquired it, and how its changed her.
“I think that this fame, this whole thing, being in the spotlight for this short amount of time has taught me so much about myself,” says Carano. ”It’s made me have to answer questions that I actually had to think about and go home and be like, ‘Well, who am I?’ If I’m gonna be telling everybody who I am, I better figure that out.”
If you want to know who Gina Carano is, it’s instructive to know what she wanted to be as a teenager. “I wanted to be a drummer,” she says. “I wanted to be a drummer for like, a punk band.” She was especially fond of seminal hard-edged SoCal pop punk band Pennywise. “I got kicked out of [a] Pennywise [show],” she admits. For fighting? “Underaged drinking,” she says.
“I like to just goof off,” says Carano. “I was like that little girl that just like liked to goof off and have fun then when people started watching I was like, ‘Oh!'” she exclaims, sitting up straight, placing her hands on her thighs like the class clown who moonlights as a model student.
“I think God has a wonderful sense of humor and he’s kinda put me in this position to help me grow. And it really has,” she says. “I used to be so secluded and so, just like, just like anti-social, not because I had attitude or anything, but, I don’t know, everyone’s kind of different. That’s just the way I was.”
Carano is a giggler. Its a nervous twitch, a defense mechanism to help a shy girl deal with the awkwardness of having the same conversation ten times with ten strangers. If shes uncomfortable with the attention, her smile compounds the problem. Its the reason why cameras love her. She loves them back, even if shes not entirely comfortable with what they are focusing on.
”I don’t think a lot of people ask Forrest Griffin who he’s dating. I’ve learned to just roll with it,” says Carano. ”The only thing is I get asked that question like probably every interview, ‘Are you single? Are you dating?’ So its out there a lot more.”
If Carano bests Santos on Showtime, a lot of her life will be out there a lot more. The fighter loves doing what she does and she even likes the attention a little, but that aspiring drummer still lurks inside of her, the young Gina who is content to toil in obscurity for the love of the craft.
”Do I miss the days where it was just training and going on road trips to fight in front of 200 people in a ring like this,” she asks, tapping the red mat shes sitting on. ”Yeah. Its kind of like going to the old school punk shows, you know? There’s just everybody there and a mosh pit – there’s really no rules. And then that band makes it big. You go to this huge arena and they’re still great, but it was just so much different then.”