The months of contract negotiations between the UFC and women's MMA pioneer Gina Carano have taken a surprising turn, with rumors swirling that Carano has joined Bellator MMA. Per Mookie Alexander of Bloody Elbow, the rumbles started Monday, saying that Bellator had come to terms with "Conviction" and were planning to announce their deal on Tuesday and that she would face former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen.
The discussion is something of a shocker. A fight between Carano and UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey has long been regarded as an inevitability, and the matchup remains one of the biggest fights the UFC is capable of putting together.
Don't get too excited, however, as MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani is saying sources close to the situation believe this is not the case:
One good source tells me the Gina Carano signing with Bellator rumors are not true. (Cont'd)— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) August 12, 2014
I asked another Bellator source if there is some kind of announcement planned for tomorrow. Response: "Yes. Major? That's up for debate."— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) August 12, 2014
Carano was American MMA's first female star, and she converted a well-publicized run in EliteXC into a modestly successful acting career. When the promotion collapsed and was acquired by Strikeforce, she fought for the inaugural women's featherweight championship, losing to Cris "Cyborg" Justino in lopsided fashion.
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That 2009 loss seemingly marked the end of her MMA career, as she began receiving steady work in Hollywood, most prominently starring in the 2011 action flick Haywire. However, Carano has remained close to the MMA scene and has consistently denied claims that she was retired from combat sports.
Keep in mind that this would not be the first major free-agent coup pulled off by Bellator's new president, Scott Coker. Coker's former promotion, Strikeforce, turned MMA upside down by scooping up the legendary Fedor Emelianenko when, once again, a move to the UFC felt like an inevitability, given the fact that Bellator has been actively seeking out fan-favorite free agents like Kimbo Slice and Melvin Manhoef.
Keep an eye on Bleacher Report for more details on this story as they become available.