Once upon a time, Carano was a major attraction in the world of mixed martial arts. Years before Ronda Rousey ushered in a new era for female MMA competitors, Carano – who first emerged in the kickboxing game and Muay Thai – was the sport’s first breakout female star in the mid-2000s.
She began her MMA career with a couple of eye-catching, knockout victories in the World Extreme Fighting and World Pro Fighting Championships, respectively. Then she went over to the budding Strikeforce promotion, where she participated in her first ever female fight, beating Elaina Maxwell. In 2007, she began her stellar race with EliteXC, beating Julie Kedzie, Tonya Evinger, Kaitlin Young and Kelly Kobold over the next two years, pushing her unbeaten record to 7-0.
However, Carano’s impressive streak ended at a Strikeforce event in 2009 when she squared off Cris Cyborg (who in 2021 is the Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion). Although she had rarely been challenged to that point in her career, Carano was completely overwhelmed by Cyborg, who won via TKO in the first round.
That would prove to be Carano’s last match. At one point, she was to return in a dream match with Rousey, but she told later ESPN that UFC President Dana White ruined the deal. Instead, she continued to focus on her new acting career.