2009 Female Fighter of the Year: Gina Carano

Gina Carano was the cornerstone for women's MMA in 2009.

The 1st thing that comes to mind when reading this is how can I say Gina Carano is the Female Fighter of the Year when she lost her only fight in 2009 to Cris “Cyborg” Santos?  The answer is simple.  I chose Carano as the best 2009 had to offer is because she was women’s MMA in 2009. Also for the victory that it was for the women, to headline a major MMA event, could have never been realized without Carano.   As one of the biggest MMA success stories in ’09, Strikeforce:  Carano vs. Cyborg, it was easily one of  the most historical events in history as well .  She didn’t have the best year in the cage but her contributions outweigh anything else her peers accomplished this year.

Gina Carano made women fighters marketable to corporate America with her Pepsi endorsement which aired on Superbowl Sunday.

Thanks to Gina Carano, women’s MMA reached the pinnacle of the sport and it came at a heavy price.  Facing a beast of an opponent,  Carano willingly sacrificed valuable training time by enduring the smothering exposure that came from a heavy promotion built almost exclusively on her own star power.  No athlete in the world meant as much to their gender’s success in sport like Gina Carano. She dealt with unforeseen and astronomical pressure in making her title fight with Cyborg a success.  Until her Elite XC debut in 2007, no one cared or fully accepted women’s MMA until she broke into the spotlight.  The stark contrast in the two women was media bliss but it was Carano who sold the fight with a perfect blend of uncanny skill, tons of charisma and of course her movie star looks.  Had she had nothing to offer as an athlete it would have been declared a desperate novelty act, but Carano was as good as her billing and when it mattered most Carano delivered on all fronts.

Carano had the championship within her grasp against Cyborg.

Carano had the championship within her grasp against Cyborg.

A back-and-forth battle derived that had a packed house at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA standing on their feet for the bout’s entirety.  It was an all-action fight thatprovided more action than most of the guys did in their own encounters. Had a quick knockout occurred then the sport would have died right there and then, but now women like Erin Toughill, Marloes Coenen and champion Cyborg Santos now have the opportunity to showcase their skills to grander audiences without fear of repercussion. Carano put up a good fight and could have beaten her stellar opponent proving that she was not the next Anna Kournikova.  She is championship material and the world fully accepted women’s MMA due to her brave performance.  Paving the path for future stars is the greatest courtesy one can execute for their sport.  When considered what has transpired for women’s MMA it’s hard not to mention Carano’s name.  It’s an superlative achievement and justifying her as the best of 2009.


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