All the Mixed Martial Arts world is buzzing with the recent string of stars making their way to Hollywood, picking the bright lights and minimal bruising of the silver screen over the beatdowns and bloody lips that come with the cage.
While most fighters-turned-actors have landed supporting roles (see Jackson, Quinton) or the lead in direct-to-DVD sequels (see Couture, Randy), Gina Carano is taking things one step further, landing the lead role in Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh's Knockout.
When discussing this growing trend on the most recent Watch Kalib Run Cage Cast, an interesting and very plausible analogy for Carano's career moving forward came to mind.
Is Gina Carano set to become the Dwayne Johnson of Mixed Martial Arts?
For those who have shied away from the squared circle since the days of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka or simply choose to deny their former love of wrestling, Johnson is better known to some as former WWE champion "The Rock," easily the greatest crossover success the wrestling world has produced to date.
Following his rise from young up-and-comer to world champion, Johnson began branching out into the acting world, a natural move for the highly charismatic potential leading man. His first leading role came as the titular character in The Scorpion King, a role that netted him the largest salary for a first-time lead actor in movie history.
From then on, his in-ring appearances became less frequent as more movies followed, until the point came where "The Rock" was just a part-time wrestler, while Dwayne Johnson focused on being a full-time actor.
The potential parallels with Carano are obvious, just as her decision to capitalize on this opportunity makes perfect sense as well.
While countless troglodytes and trolls have left comment after comment criticizing this move or voicing their prepubescent fantasies for a nude scene throughout the online community, the fact of the matter is that Carano should make in the neighborhood of 10 times more to make this film than she does for getting punched in the face.
It doesn't take an accountant to tell you that that is a wise financial decision.
Just as Johnson saw the need to strike while the iron was hot and his career was on the upswing, the same applies to Carano now.
Her name recognition and mainstream popularity have never been higher, coming off the massive promotional push of her fight with Cris Cyborg, her role on American Gladiators, and her presence in the pages of Maxim magazine.
Additionally, Carano, like Johnson before her, understands that her in-ring activities won't last forever, and the chance to open a new avenue for life after fighting cannot be missed, especially when the one presenting the option is Steven Soderbergh.
The director of Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and the Ocean's Eleven series has said Knockout will be a female James Bond-type adventure, which immediately brings the word "franchise" into play.
But what will all this mean for her career in the cage?
Obviously, a return to the ring in the near future is out of the question, as starring in a major motion picture is not a three-week vacation to remote locations.
After filming is complete, the comparison with "The Rock" has the potential to play out even more.
Strikeforce has already displayed a willingness to allow high-profile fighters the opportunity to pursue other endeavors (see Le, Cung), and Carano should be no different.
Much like Johnson was booked into short storylines and given a major push during his sporadic returns to the ring, expect the same with Carano when it comes to fighting.
One highly publicized, well-promoted fight between acting opportunities is not unreasonable to expect, as Carano remains "The Face of Women's MMA" and one of the most marketable mixed martial artists period.
In fact, the lack of depth in the female Strikeforce ranks works in Carano's favor as well.
With few credible challengers established enough to sell an event alongside "The Brawling Beauty," Strikeforce can invest some time into building an opponent before putting pen to paper on a contract with Carano, thereby allowing her the time to scratch her acting itch.
While picking an acting gig over an established fight is a little questionable ** cough Rampage cough ** using your time away from the ring to put a little money in the bank for your post-fight career cannot be criticized.
Gina Carano may still be "The Face of Women's MMA," but the opportunity to be the face of a potential action movie franchise is one you don't turn down.
And that's the bottom line, because Stone...oh wait, wrong wrestler.
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