In Father's Eyes, Carano always Daddy's Girl

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In Father's Eyes, Carano always Daddy's Girl

Post  Angelique on Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:15 am

Glenn Carano has traveled the world to see his middle daughter compete, all the way from Thailand to Mississippi to Newark. Still, his recollection of that night near San Jose, Calif., remains murky. He prefers it that way.
Gina Carano, America's postmodern sweetheart, the Maxim hottie who could submit you in any variety of ways, was 12-1-1 as a Muay Thai fighter, and now 7-0 as a professional mixed martial artist. That night — a glorified smoker somewhere in the Bay Area, her father recalls — was her only loss.

The other woman was bigger and stronger; his daughter wasn't as busy as usual. But the real details are lost on her father.

"I don't even want to think to think about those things you're talking about right now," says Glenn Carano, a former backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. "She's my little baby."

I don't blame him. It's painful enough to see your kid lose in Little League or Pop Warner.

But the losses in combat sports aren't symbolic or metaphorical. What's more, there's the gender issue. Equal rights and equal opportunity are wonderful. But let's not pretend boys and girls are the same. What dad could bear to see his girl in a fight, much less get beat up?

Just the same, this Saturday night at the HP Pavilion, the father will be front and center when his daughter returns to San Jose for what is arguably the biggest fight in the history of women's fights — Gina Carano vs. Cristiane Santos, aka Cyborg.

"As close as I can to the ring," says the elder Carano, "that's where I'll be."

Being the father of a daughter, I wonder how he can do it. I find myself telling him about my daughter, a 9-year-old who, for reasons beyond my capacity to explain, has gone from Brooklyn to horse shows in Pebble Beach. The other day, in the middle of a competition, she fell off her pony. Her head bounced off the turf and hit the fence. Horrified and panicked, I run out into the ring.

"Daddy," she says, "you're embarrassing me."

So now I ask Glenn Carano, how do you not run into the ring?

"It does bother me," he says. "My stomach will be in knots."

On the other hand, he knows a lot more than I about the inexact science of fathering. He knows he has no choice. "I always found that if I told Gina not to do something, she'd go 110 percent the other way," he says, recalling the day she came home and told him something about Muay Thai.

"I thought she was going to the gym like the girls, you know, cardio stuff," he says. "Then I found out she was actually fighting."

Next, she went to Thailand. "Still the same old Gina," he says, recalling the girl for whom he had bought Cabbage Patch dolls. Sort of. Now, her knuckles were callused and her shins calcified.

That contradiction — between soft and hard, between beauty and ferocity, between masculine and feminine virtues — is the reason Gina Carano is carrying this fight, if not the sport of women's MMA. It's also worth noting that Glenn was a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission who helped the sport gain acceptance, researching and voting for rule changes that outlawed rabbit punches and certain knee and elbow strikes.

For the record, he has no regrets. He's seen the best and the worst of combat sports, from Mike Tyson's ear biting to the most ennobling rounds waged by Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Still, I ask, why would a middle-class kid go out and fight for a living?

"I don't know," he says. "I don't know what forces the middle child to go out and do this kind of thing. But I'm extremely proud."

So he'll be there on Saturday, his stomach churning.

I'll always recall what Fernando Vargas' 4-year-old son said after he saw his father knocked out by Felix Trinidad: "How come when Papi gets hurt he doesn't cry?"

And it occurs that Vargas' son and Gina's father have something in common. It's easier for the fighters than for their loved ones pressed into service as witnesses.

The money, the acclaim, the fate of women's MMA, all that stuff is great. But that's not what Glenn Carano is rooting for. "I just can't wait to put my arms around her after the fight," he says. "I just want her to be safe."

He's already thinking of a present for Gina, something to replace the Cabbage Patch doll.

A golf club. Perhaps a mud bath in Calistoga. Or maybe, best of all, cooking lessons. Or maybe not. She still has to make weight.

So it doesn't take much to imagine her response: Thanks, Daddy. But you're embarrassing me.


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