March 23, 2009

Gina Carano has been enjoying her time away from the spotlight, even if it's been harder than ever to stay out of it.

"I've spent a little time by myself, just detoxing," said Carano. "I don't always have to be in the spotlight -- maybe get some other girls out there. I've been taking some time with myself to keep my head straight."

Keeping a level head has been a big job in the world of celebrity.

"I do that," she said of her relative seclusion. "I disappear and I do my thing, and that way I can always be humble and have my head on." caught up with Carano at The Fight Expo in Del Mar, Calif., and saw a never-ending circle of well-wishers who followed the MMA star's every move. She answered every request for a photo or autograph, smiling as fans sidled up to her.

Lately, she's been more a fan of the sport than a practitioner. She doesn't miss the action.

"I'm good," she said. "It's nice to be a fan of the sport and watch and see what's going on, and step outside and see that there's a bigger world out there, and kind of appreciate it from a different angle. We have a really great sport here. This is a great thing to be a part of."

Her next career move is the big question on fans' minds. A lot is riding on her re-emergence. She's far and away the most bankable female mixed martial artist in the short history of the sport, and as proven by her time with EliteXC, the promotion that airs her fights will see a dramatic increase in viewers.

In February, her move to Strikeforce seemed a mere formality when the San Jose promotion purchased her fight contract from the ailing ProElite. But according to several sources spoke to, she'll have to be paid accordingly for her drawing power, and there's no guarantee a new deal will be reached.

Carano maintains a solution will be reached that will put her back in action in the near future.

"I just had to weigh some options," she explained. "I'm making these decisions, so nobody else is going to make these decisions for me. I have to make them, and so we're going to get something figured out and I'll be fighting.

"I pray about it and see what would be a good move for my career, and I just know that no matter what, any fight from here is going to be a big fight, and a tough one. Maybe it's the calm before the storm."

The current storm on the horizon is Christian "Cyborg" Santos. The fearsome striker made her wish to fight Carano known again at Strikeforce's press conference announcing the upcoming "Shamrock vs. Diaz." Santos is scheduled for the April 11 card against submission specialist Hitomi Akano, and a win could position her for a summer showdown with Carano.

"It's gonna happen," said Carano of the much-anticipated fight. "Actually, the only person I can think about right now. My focus is on her, and I don't really want to fight anybody else but her. Let's do it.

"Both of us want to make it happen, and it's probably going to happen this year."

In the coming months, Carano will return to the gym to work on basics, slowly turning up her intensity for a possible fight.

She anticipates a bright year for women's MMA in 2009.

"I see it continually blowing up," she said. "There's a lot of talented girls that people haven't met yet. There's so many faces for these people to fall in love with. It's exciting, because I gotta be at the beginning when it started getting popular, and I'm just so blessed. I know so many girls out there that are good. So I'm just blessed to be a part of it."

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