Gina Carano is the real deal. She puts on no airs about her obvious physical gifts and natural beauty. “The easiest way to describe myself is to look at my dogs,” Gina began. “They want to love. They want to be loved. They love to be aggressive. They’re sensitive. They’re so playful. I’m a lover and a fighter.”

Gina is referring to Gotti and Layla, ages two and three, her pit bulls. But just as they would with her prized pets, opponents would be well advised not to underestimate her ability based on her enchanting personality and bewitching loveliness.

Gina is scheduled to participate in the inaugural event of the new martial arts organization, Pro Elite Inc. as they unfold their Elite Xtreme Combat (EliteXC) show on February 10 in Southaven, Mississippi at the DeSoto Civic Center. The show will be partnered with and televised by premium cable’s Showtime Network at 10 p.m., ET/PT.

Gina began her career training under Master Toddy, (“Mostly I call him sir,” she says), in Muay Thai over three years ago and began fighting six months after that. Gina says that when she first walked into the gym she was told, “You’re too fat, you need to work out.” So she decided that, “I need to get my butt in gear.”

She compiled a Muay Thai record of 12-1-1, and then received an offer to participate in the first ever female sanctioned MMA bout in Nevada. That was about seven months ago, and she has since gone 3-0 in MMA, and is considered to be a top prospect in the ring and at the box office.

Gina, who is 5’8”, has been fighting at 141-145 pounds but says, “Right now I’m going to push it to 135-140. It’s a popular division for women.”

She has made the transition from Muay Thai to MMA with relative ease, attributable to the hard work and study that she puts into her game. She is confident in her stand up game with her Muay Thai background, comfortable with her technique in her kicks, knees, elbows, punches, and Thai Clinch. But she is determined to show that she is not afraid to go to the ground.

“As a Muay Thai fighter coming into the game, I’ve had a great respect for Jiu-Jitsu,” she said. “To be a really good MMA fighter you have to be really well rounded. I incorporate everything I learn in my training.”

Carano goes to the gym Monday through Saturday, working on shadow boxing, sparring, bag work, and running, working anywhere from four hours a day to an entire day in the gym depending on what skills Master Toddy wants to prioritize on a given day.

“If I’m really learning something, I don’t want to stop it,” Gina says. “I came from Muay Thai where you had 3 three minute rounds or 5 three minute rounds. Then I came into MMA with five minute rounds. Three five minute rounds is no joke. It’s a long time to be in there, plenty of time to do a lot of damage compared to a three minute round.”

Gina has been to Thailand three times. The first two times were for victorious Muay Thai fights and the third time she went to promote the film, “Ring Girls.” Gina and four other girls trained by Master Toddy were filmed having fights from Las Vegas to Thailand in the film. This led to “Fight Girls,” a reality show on the Oxygen channel with seven girls competing for a chance to win three spots on a trip to Thailand to fight. Gina was a mentor under Master Toddy for the show and helped him decide who would go. Fight Girls 2 begins taping in mid-February.

Before “Ring Girls” Gina had appeared on ESPN’S “I’d Do Anything.” The show called Master Toddy’s and requested three attractive girls to fight some guys for a show. One girl weighed 115, another 130, and Gina was 145.

“I loved it!” Gina said in describing her film and TV experience. “I’ve never had such a great time in all my life. During the demonstration [with stuntmen for “I’d do anything”] they didn’t think we could do much damage but I knocked the first guy on his butt, the second guy was terrified and the third guy quit.”

After that, the guys were requesting head gear, shin guards, and chest protectors before facing the three girls that they had requested from Master Toddy’s.

“But I didn’t get into the sport so I could tell guys that I can whip your butt,” she continued. “I like the physical and mental part of it and I want to test my skills against equal opponents.”

Carano, who has lived 15 of her 24 years in Las Vegas, is a Psychology major with just 18 credits to go at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, but has put that on hold for now because of her busy schedule. She does plan to return and finish the courses required for her degree.

Family is the cornerstone of Gina’s life. She has two sisters, and laughingly refers to herself as the emotional, troubled middle child who actually has her act together but no one knows it.

“I have the best family that anyone could ask for,” she gushes. “They’re just amazing. God has blessed this family so much. My grandparents are amazing.

Sports fans may recall Gina’s father, Glenn Carano. Glenn was the backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys from 1977-1983 before moving to the USFL to start for the Pittsburgh Maulers for the 1984 season. (Gina is quick to point out that her mother was quite athletic herself.) Glenn Carano also served on the Nevada State Athletic Commission from 1997-2002, and played an integral role in the Mike Tyson hearings after the Evander Holyfield ear biting incident that resulted in Tyson’s license being suspended for 15 months. He also played a large role in bringing the UFC to Nevada in 2001, and along with Marc Ratner worked to institute rules and weight classes to make the emerging sport more acceptable to the mainstream.

It turns out that coincidentally Glenn Carano is a friend of Pro Elite’s President in charge of live event promotions, Gary Shaw.

“I wasn’t informed that they were friends,” Gina explained. “But once my dad heard that I’m going to be fighting for Gary Shaw, he said ‘Great, sign the contract.’ My dad is a marketing director and he works to bring events together and he and Gary knew each other through boxing shows in Reno.

“I’m excited. I think Gary is going to bring a lot to the sport given his background in boxing. On a personal level I think he’s completely himself. He’s honest and he doesn’t tell people what they want to hear.”

Gina Carano is the real deal. She puts on no airs about her obvious physical gifts and natural beauty.

“People talk about it and it boggles my mind. If you had asked me four years ago I wouldn’t have believed it. I have a long ways to go. I haven’t even reached my potential. People might say she’s attractive but I think it’s more because I wear my heart on my sleeve and people see something in me that’s kind of unique. But it’s a positive to my ego and that’s okay with me” she concludes, laughing.

A reviewer of “Ring Girls” might have put it best when he described Gina Carano as “stunningly gorgeous and tough as nails.” It’s worth tuning in to EliteXC on Showtime on February 10 just to see her in action – she’s destined for stardom.

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Jordan Kaye