Posted by Ryan Matsunaga @ryanmatsu
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Ryan Matsunaga

Gina Carano was MMA's first true female star, and arguably the athlete who put women's MMA on the map. Her fighting career, although brief, helped pave the way for future competitors like Ronda Rousey, as well as the UFC's decision to add female divisions to their roster.

So it's no surprise that she knows what to look for in an up-and-coming fighter, and saw a ton of potential in Holly Holm, even before the president of the UFC did.

In 2014, Carano was approached by the UFC, and began getting in shape for a potential comeback fight. While in New Mexico, she happened to have a few training sessions with Holly Holm, who at the time was mainly competing on the regional circuit in Albuquerque .

It didn't take long for Carano to see Holm's potential, a fact she brought up during a meeting with UFC president Dana White:

I did train with Holly a little in New Mexico. I remember talking to Dana White last year sometime in his office, he had the five top contenders in each weight class written on his office windows -- male and female -- and there were a couple names I couldn't for the life of me figure out, why were not written down.
I felt it was important to mention [Holly Holm] is legit and should be up there. He laughed and blew it off mentioning something about her ground game but then again he did sign her not long after that so I think he knew. She seems like she deserved that in her life and career.

Now Holm is not only in the UFC, but also a reigning champion. Carano says she knows what it's like being in that position:

I don't think it's going to be an easy ride for her to keep that belt so she's feeling a whole new sense of being a target in this world when before she was the underdog.

As for Gina Carano herself, she isn't ruling out a future return to MMA.

"I've moved out of LA to outside San Francisco to train and grow in a different atmosphere artistically and personally. I needed to change the way I was going. I haven't been this inspired in a long time," she said.

"It's something you can want but can never fake. I've just begun to dream again so we will see what 2016 holds. Training, art and people have always helped open my mind and heart."