As one of the world's best female mixed martial arts fighters, there isn't much that scares Gina Carano.
Except small talk on a first date when the subject turns to occupations.
"It's really hard for me," laughed the eye-catching 27-year-old yesterday, as she breezed through Toronto promoting MMA and her action figurine that will be in stores in July. "I try to keep it a surprise because I really want someone to talk to me for who I am and get to know me.
"I say: 'Ah you know, I'm in an aggressive business to do with physical training'. When I say I'm from Las Vegas, they think: 'My God, is this chick a stripper?' Then I have to come out and tell them I'm a professional fighter.
"I just hope that people can see me for the female I am and not go and look me up on the web. It's like I have to say: 'Please don't YouTube me for the first year'. But of course one of the natural questions is: 'What do you do?' "
The daughter of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Glen Carano took up this line of work a few years ago. Sometimes bullied in high school, Carano had the odd scrap with girls, but when a male Muay Tai (Tai boxing) trainer opined she was too chunky, she dedicated herself to personal fulfillment.
The 140-pounder is primarily a kickboxer who goes by the nickname 'Conviction'.
"I've always followed my heart and that can lead to difficult and sometimes wonderful places," she said. "This trainer had no other motive but to tell me (the truth), so I signed up for lessons and started competing in MMA."
When Carano and Julie Kedzie fought in February of 2007 on Showtime, it was the first time that two females had appeared in a boxing or MMA fight on the network. Carano has been on American Gladiators, mentored female kickboxers on the Oxygen reality show Fight Girls and fought in the first sanctioned female MMA bout in Nevada, defeating Rosie Sexton by TKO.
Since 2007, she is 7-0, but hasn't yet fought this year as the sport's female ranking and matchmaking system is not fully organized.
"MMA has done wonders for me as a human being," she said. "I had been reclusive and kept to myself and some people just have a problem with that. They want to be noticed. Some people walk into a bar and just have something challenging about them and so most of my (unofficial) fights had something to do with that or with picking on someone I loved.
"My little sister would be at a party and some people would start to throw beer cans at her. People who are attractive sometimes think they have to take a lot of crap, but they don't. When I started training it all started to change. I found a new respect and discipline for myself and stopped getting into those kind of fights."
She says her father has gone from being opposed to her career choice to being proud of her celebrity and even asking her for MMA tickets.
"Sometimes (fighters appeal to) one group. But I go from the 79-year-old grandmas to wives, husbands and children. It's really great to reach that many people."
Her figurine (in an action pose) will be sold beside MMA's male-oriented products.
"To have one of yourself is something cool," Carano said. "My dad always teased me that there would be a Gina doll someday, a little tomboy that beat up on everyone and who would be a catastrophe."