Gina Carano's return to MMA looks inevitable at this point. There have been rumors of the former EliteXC and Strikeforce product coming back into the fold in a big way, but the striker has yet to sign a deal.
The initial rumblings began with the UFC. It appeared that the UFC was going to ink a deal with Carano to battle Ronda Rousey. President Dana White was repeatedly asked about this in media scrums until talks died down in recent weeks.
Last week, rumors swirled that Carano was spurning the UFC to join Scott Coker at Bellator.
The rumors proved false—for now—but made it an interesting question: With whom should Carano sign? According to MMAFighting.com, White seems to think the UFC is close to signing a deal.
Do not be too quick to say the UFC, though. Sure, it is the largest platform for Carano to return to, but Bellator offers its own unique advantages. It all comes down to what Carano wants.
Bellator and Viacom, its parent company, can offer Carano a hefty payday—likely more than she would make under the UFC banner. That can be enticing, and with the recent commitment to sign the likes of Marloes Coenen and Julia Budd, there will be a couple decent fighters for her to tangle with.
The No. 2 promotion in the game would allow Carano to stay at a weight she is more accustomed to. Sure, there is no depth at 145 pounds, but Bellator would not need depth. Carano would be a showcase fighter, someone to promote heavily as an attraction.
The organization can use her drawing power to bring more eyes to the product, and Carano can get hand-picked opponents who will challenge her but not be too big of a threat.
The UFC does not offer that. It offers an immediate fight with the No. 1 pound-for-pound female fighter in the world and at a weight Carano has trouble making.
As a personality who has made the transition to acting, there may be some concern about what a decisive loss to Rousey would do to her marketability as an actress. Rousey has torn through her opposition to date, and the 7-1 Carano does not offer much resistance on paper—although we have no clue as to if Carano has been improving since her time away from the sport.
There is little question that a Rousey vs. Carano fight would draw big numbers. It is the largest platform for Carano to return to. But what comes next?
If Carano were to win, she would be the champion. She would get a monstrous boost and have to defend the strap. Is that something she is looking for? A full-time fighting gig? Bellator would be able to offer her a better schedule with more money.
It is easy to pick the UFC; it's the top company in the world. But the decision for Carano has to come down to what works best for her. What does she hope to accomplish with her return to MMA?
If she wants to compete against the best in the biggest marquee fights, then she needs to sign with the UFC. But if Carano wants to collect a hefty paycheck while maintaining her current Hollywood schedule, then Bellator would be the better option.
It is not an easy decision.
It seems apparent that the other shoe will drop soon for Carano. Neither the UFC nor Bellator will keep waiting for an answer. One of the two companies seems poised to make a huge splash with her signing in the next month or two.
Who will it be, and where do you think Carano should sign?