Carano: Former UFC champ Couture's a master game planner

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When it came time for Gina Carano to assemble a fight camp that would prepare her for her toughest career challenge, Randy Couture was a no-brainer.

"There's not a lot of people that can put it straight and organize you like Randy," she said during a Thursday teleconference promoting her headlining fight with Cris "Cyborg" Santos on Aug. 15 at Strikeforce.

It only took two sentences to draw her to Couture in the first place. It was February 2007, as she readied herself for a role in the premium cable debut of women's MMA at EliteXC's "Destiny," sitting backstage in a Southhaven, Miss., arena. She was a bundle of nerves.

"I'd never met him before," Carano recalled. "I think he was just making rounds and being supportive. He sat down, and my head was wound up a little bit too tight. He looked at me and said, 'You know why we do this?' And I looked at him, like, 'No, why am I doing this?' And he said, 'Because we love it, right?'

"His presence and his calmness, it just completely took any anxiety that I was feeling into passion and I was just ready to go from there. I said after that fight, if somebody can affect me that strongly, I want to go and train (with him). And he only said a couple of sentences, and I was completely motivated in there."

Carano won against Julie Kedzie that night, and was soon anointed the "face of women's MMA." From then on, she called Xtreme Couture home.

Of course, it wasn't as simple as just moving into Couture's Las Vegas gym and training with the legend. There were schedules to contend with, hers and his.

"I haven't really gotten to work with him for the last two years that I've been a part of Xtreme Couture," explained Carano. "'Cause either he's been going, or I've been going somewhere. We've both had different things going on."

But when Carano found out Couture would be bound to his gym during preparations for his UFC 102 fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the time was right. She asked, and he accepted, but only after she agreed to a strict schedule.

"I thought it might be important for me to not try to manage all this high level of intensity, because this is such an important fight, and such a big deal with me," said Carano. "I just didn't want to have to deal with that all by myself, like I've had to do in the past."

She doesn't fault previous trainers for past camps. She's been successful so far, despite having repeated trouble making her contracted weight. On the contrary, it was about tapping into Couture's reputation for meticulous strategy.

"He's had experience since the beginning of this sport, so I just felt like it would be good for me not to have to do this all by myself, and have somebody who's been there before," she continued. "Somebody who can help me game plan, somebody who can teach me what I'm doing wrong. He's a master game planner."

Santos commends Carano on her commitment, though it won't slow her down.

"I believe she is looking for him because she knows that this fight is the fight of her life, just like I know," Santos said through translator Ivan Canello. "Couture is one of the best MMA coaches in the world, he knows how to put a strategy together. It was a very smart move, but in the end of the day it won't change for me. I will be there seeking the KO anyway."

Couture has a little over a week before he wraps action movie "The Expendables"; camp begins afterwards.

"I'm really looking forward to working with him," said Carano.