Was Gina Carano more important than Ronda Rousey to women’s MMA?

Before Ronda Rousey, there was Gina Carano. And before Carano, there were other talented female mixed martial artists. But until Carano hit the scene – when she took part in the first sanctioned women’s MMA fight in Nevada in June 2006 – there wasn’t a female fighter quite like her.

Carano was the first breakthrough star of women’s MMA. She was the perfect combination of beauty and badass, which captured the attention of the mainstream during an era when women’s MMA wasn’t so widely accepted. From 2006 until August 2009, when she lost her final bout against Cris Cyborg under the now-defunct Strikeforce banner, Carano was the poster girl for the sport.

An entire generation of fans might not realize this, but without her there probably isn’t women’s MMA in the UFC.

“First women’s MMA fight I ever saw was her and Julie Kedzie,” Rousey said in 2015 during UFC 184 media day. “I would not have even known (MMA) was an option for me. She’s the one that planted the seed in my head.”

Rousey’s professional debut was in March 2011. In a sense, she was Carano 2.0. She demanded the attention of the mainstream for the same reasons. With time, UFC president Dana White couldn’t ignore Rousey: She was the reason he’d finally allow women to fight in his promotion in 2013. From there, Rousey went on an incredible run to become the UFC’s biggest star before it all came to a stunning end.

These days, Carano and Rousey have found success and happiness outside of MMA – both in acting, but Rousey also as a WWE superstar. Nevertheless, their impact on the sport is undeniable.

Our question for you is this: Who was more important to women’s MMA? You can answer in the poll below:

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