On a crisp November morning in Culver City, Calif., Gina Carano pulled up in front of Sony Pictures Studios. It was the final day of cuts for "American Gladiators," the popular spandex-laden, physical-challenge driven TV series that thrived on Saturday night television from 1989-1996.
Carano hadn't been aware of the show when news leaked of the latest guilty pleasure revival. She hadn't waited in the lines of thousands that churned out as many pull-ups as they could muster at rapid-fire pace or catapulted their bodies from end-to-end of a gymnasium in the hopes of catching the right producer's eye.
Instead, NBC producers had seen Carano -- who had fought two of her five career MMA bouts under the newly-formed EliteXC banner that year on Showtime -- and wanted her. She had turned down audition after audition, until her coach of four months, six-time UFC champion Randy Couture, encouraged her to head down to Los Angeles and at least give it a try.
Sitting outside the studio, looking up at the massive white building in front of her, Carano made a decision. She started her car, pulled out of the parking lot, and kept driving until she reached a friend's house in San Diego.
"I didn't want it to take away from who I am. I wanted to live up to my responsibilities of being a well-known female MMA fighter," says Carano. "I wanted to be good for the sport."
Carano's name, along with her beautiful face and a physique more suited for modeling then fighting, had become a regular fixture of EliteXC advertisements played in diligent rotation on Showtime. Carano's gutsy performance with fellow femme Julie Kedzie for EliteXC "Destiny" that previous February has not only helped launch the fledgling promotion, it had cemented at least a temporary home for female fighters.
The dimple-cheeked 26-year-old was crowned "The Women's Face of MMA," and with good reason. EliteXC executives saw that same intangible quality that fueled NBC producers to go back to the raven-haired beauty one last time and convince her to finally join the "American Gladiators" cast the night before shooting was scheduled to begin. This time, Carano hesitantly agreed.
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