Beauty in the beast

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

Gina Carano's father Glenn always had big dreams for his little girl.

The former Dallas Cowboys backup QB doted over his princess, encouraging her to keep up her studies and make her mark on the world.

Without question Gina's leaving her dent on the planet, though not exactly the way her father expected.

"My whole life, he's been telling me go to school, become a lawyer, become a doctor, become something of importance. Then I go and become a professional fighter," says Carano, who will take on Kaitlin Young in the first prime-time mixed-martial arts card on CBS.

"It just kind of threw him off his seat for a second. But he's climbed back on and he is 100% behind me."

Carano, 26, has become the face of women's MMA -- something that will only grow following EliteXC's inaugural card on CBS on May 31.

The Texas native, who's been featured on ESPN and is a regular on the American Gladiators TV show, has seen her star rise beyond her 5-0 MMA record.

Her covergirl good looks and relentless tenacity in the Octagon have catapulted her above women fighters with more impressive resumes.

The Muay Thai specialist admits her growing public persona and her commitment to the American Gladiators have gotten in the way of her first love -- fighting.

"I wish I would have had nine weeks completely to focus on it like Kaitlin," she said about her stunted training camp.

"But there's not going to be any excuses. I've got the next two weeks to kind of sharpen everything up and I'm ready to fight."

Young, a student at the University of Michigan, has had a more focused training camp and has practised takedown defence with former UFC lightweight champ Sean Sherk.

The CBS show will be the first MMA card to be carried live on network TV and EliteXC president Gary Shaw said his decision to have a women's fight on the prime-time card that will feature Kimbo Slice, Robbie Lawler and Phil Baroni, was a no brainer.

"If we are willing to put women into war where they can get killed by real bullets and protect us and protect our country, why shouldn't they have the same right if they're training hard to be seen by the public?" says Shaw, a former boxing promoter who was instrumental in putting together the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in 2002.

But the notion of showcasing the bloodiest of bloodsports to a prime-time audience has already drawn criticism from some, including CBS chairman Sumner Redstone, who questioned the decision to bring MMA to the network.

As for the ongoing grudge match with the UFC for fight supremacy, Shaw is quick to admit his company is No. 2 -- for now.

"We're Pepsi to their Coke. We're Avis to Hertz. But it's not always a bad place to be," says Shaw.

"As I said, we're far, far away from 16 months ago when we started. I don't think anybody would have ever believed that we would have been on Showtime, we would have been going on CBS, and we'd have the rosters that we have."


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