From Kansas City to Hollywood, the women's MMA movement is moving on multiple fronts.
Invicta Fighting Championships, MMA's newest all female fight promotion, drew a staggering 233,850 viewers to its free, 11-fight live stream on Saturday -- more than 12 times the audience an average male-only event gets.
The night before, Strikeforce bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey made history as the first women's fighter to appear as a guest coach on the long-running reality series, The Ultimate Fighter, on FX.
In Los Angeles, Gina Carano's mixed martial arts background is continuing to fuel her transition into the film industry.
Carano, who was discovered by Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh during a fight on CBS and starred in January's espionage-flavored thriller Haywire, is gearing up for a role in The Fast and Furious 6, whose last installment revitalized the franchise by grossing $600,000,000 internationally.
"We're still in negotiations and everything's going smoothly, but it really looks like this is going to happen," said Carano, who'll join an ensemble cast that includes Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. "I'm geeked out."
In preparation for Fast 6 and other action-flick opportunities piling up with her agent, the 30-year-old Carano has moved to Los Angeles and joined the 8711 stunt crew full-time. This same team choreographed Carano's intrinsic fight scenes in Haywire, which helped win her ActionFest's inaugural "Chick" Norris Best Female Action Star Award in April.
"We're doing all sorts of martial arts that I wasn't able to practice when I was doing MMA," said Carano. "I'm really broadening my horizon as far as my skills go. Some days I'm doing tae kwon do, some days it's judo, some days it's boxing or muay Thai or swordplay or gymnastics. I'm getting my fix in without meaning to."
The 8711 team, which Carano said is "every 12-year-old boy's dream because you're kicking and jumping and flipping around," has become an outlet for the former Strikeforce contender to meld her fighting physicality into her roles.
"I fall in love with athletes and actors for their art and how they express it -- not necessarily if they're winning all of their fights or if they're getting all the best roles in the movies," said Carano. "I think a part of what makes the kick-fighting [part of MMA] exciting and in watching guys like Jon Jones is the creativity. That spark has really ignited again in my life in being creative and using your body in creative ways."
After Fast 6, which shoots in London during the Summer Olympics, Carano plans to film In The Blood, an action thriller set in the Caribbean.
Carano said she hasn't been able to completely stifle her urges to return to MMA someday but understands she's broadening the appeal of female fighters in the mainstream with her new career. Responses like the one Invicta got are only the beginning, she said.
"There's no women like this in the world. I know the life and what these women go through everyday. They're an inspiration to me to keep going with what I'm doing right now," she said. "I'm just so much more fascinated with women's MMA than I'm with men's MMA right now and that says a lot. That's huge. I've been saying it for years that all they needed was a platform and now it's moving in that direction. I feel like part of a movement."