For the first time in the 11-year history of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, Gina Carano was a guest on Monday. Carano was a pioneer of women's mixed martial arts. She went 7-1 in her career, which spanned 2006 to 2009.
But these days, Carano has hit it big in her acting career, including landing a feature role in "The Mandalorian," the first live-action Star Wars series, available only on Disney+.
The Helwani Show also featured former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, who made his first appearance since being suspended for two years by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in March.
Dillashaw on suspension: 'Sold my soul to the devil'
Dillashaw on EPO failure: I made a deal with the devil
TJ Dillashaw says he has no excuses and explains the factors that led to his drug test failure for EPO.
Former UFC bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw said Monday that he sold his soul to the devil when he took a banned substance in January that resulted in a two-year suspension.
He said a blood test revealed that he was becoming anemic about four weeks before his Jan. 19 bout with Henry Cejudo, and that prompted his use of ProCrit, which is the synthetic form of erythropoietin (EPO), a prohibited substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.
"[ProCrit] helps rebuild red blood cells, and when you become anemic, your red blood cells start to plummet, you lose energy," Dillashaw said on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "I was on a super strict 1,600-calorie diet and working too hard. I pushed my body to the extreme. No excuses."
Dillashaw was trying to become the first champion to drop in weight and claim a second title, but Cejudo finished him by TKO in 32 seconds.
"I made the mistake of wanting to do something that hadn't been done and sold my soul to the devil, and now I have to build myself back up and deal with it," Dillashaw said.
He faced the challenge of needing to lose weight while losing the motivation to get there.
"I didn't want to wake up and train in the morning," he said. "I had to lose a bunch more weight, and I didn't want to go to the gym, I didn't want to run, I didn't want to do what I had to do.
"I made a horrible decision."
The suspension afforded Dillashaw time to get both of his shoulders surgically repaired.
"I went through double shoulder surgery as well as dealing with [the suspension], so obviously down in the dumps," he said. "Then not being able to work out or be active to keep my mind clear, it was real tough. I'm going to be honest, mentally draining."
Dillashaw is eligible to be reinstated in January 2021, and his sights aren't just set on UFC opponents. He threw his name into the group of MMA fighters who want to box a professional boxer. Dillashaw said he wants to box Floyd Mayweather, who has hinted at fighting again.
Gina Carano: 'All my best friends are fighters still'
Carano on the meeting that got her into acting
Gina Carano tells the story of how just days after losing to Cris Cyborg, she met with director Steven Soderbergh, and that led to her acting career.
Gina Carano was one of the pioneers of women's MMA, rolling off seven straight wins from 2006 to '08 in the EliteXC and Strikeforce promotions until she fell at the hands of Cris Cyborg in a 2009 Strikeforce featherweight championship fight.
It was the last fight of her career, though she didn't know it in the immediate aftermath.
"After the Cyborg fight, I got in a car, and I drove down the 1 [highway], and I went all the way to San Diego," Carano told Helwani. "And I was just thinking, 'What am I going to do with my life? That didn't really go so well.' I had just fought the best [in the] business, [and] I don't think that I was entirely ready at that moment to have fought her."
Three days later, despite having been on the receiving end of a nasty elbow to the head that busted her open and caused blood to flow into her eye, Carano had a four-hour meeting in San Diego with film director Steven Soderbergh, which eventually led to her role in the 2011 movie "Haywire." Carano has since had a number of major acting roles, including in "Fast & Furious 6," "Deadpool" and the newly released Disney+ show "The Mandalorian."
If it hadn't been for that Soderbergh meeting, would Carano's path have kept her in MMA?
"I have a heavy bag in my garage, and all my best friends are fighters still," Carano said. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about -- when I'm working out, at least -- where there's somebody [I'm imagining] I'm kicking in the head or some kind of scenario.
"I would've definitely kept on fighting, had it not been for that opportunity. But you have to understand: At that time, there was nowhere else to go. I had reached the top, and here was a whole new challenge in front of me in this movie business that I felt like I could get really into."
There were several points when it looked like Carano would cross back over into MMA, including a 2011 Strikeforce date that fell apart before it could come to fruition. But the most famous moment in which a return seemed likely came in 2014, as Ronda Rousey was approaching the peak of her ascent in the UFC.
According to Carano, she met with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertita that July and was offered $1 million to fight Rousey. Carano was game to meet the challenge, but because she had been out of fighting for nearly five years, she wanted some time to prepare and for White to keep everything low-key so that she could settle back in.
"You've gotta just be able to sit on this for about six months, Dana. You can't say anything and let me get situated with that in mind because that sounds great, and I'd love to do it," Carano recalled telling White. After leaving the dinner, however, Carano said White started dropping her name in the media on a more and more frequent basis, putting the pressure on both Carano and her search for a team.
The negotiations fell apart shortly thereafter.
The UFC did not respond to a request for comment.
Luke Rockhold content with decision to step away from fighting
Rockhold won't 'confirm or deny' he's retired
Luke Rockhold says that fighting takes away from other things in life, but he won't confirm or deny that he's retired.
In October, Luke Rockhold said he had "no interest in fighting right now," and his sentiments don't seem to have changed much the past few weeks. Rockhold went further in depth on Monday, describing why he's OK with stepping away from the UFC.
"I've been at the top. I feel good, I'm healthy, I'm not trying to beat this thing into the ground," Rockhold said. "I'm happy, I'm content with where I'm at right now, and I'm excited to go pursue different ventures.
"Fighting takes away so much from your life," Rockhold said. "It kind of consumes you, and it's nice to take a break from it and be able to enjoy family and friends and not have something weighing on your mind."
Although Rockhold declined to confirm or deny his retirement, as he's "not one to close the door on anything in life," the 35-year-old former UFC middleweight champion talked about how his enthusiasm for fighting has been waning for a stretch of time.
"It hasn't been the same for a while, I'd say. I think once you get to the top originally, you become undisputed at some level, you have to find something else to drive you, to push you further and [make you] want it more and more," he said. "This is fighting. When you become the best, it's not like any other sport. There's so much that goes into it. So much violence, and you have to have so much hunger to keep pursuing that, and it's hard to say it was there after that point.
"I don't need to do this to the end of time and ruin myself."
Edmond Tarverdyan confident that Edmen Shabazyan is championship material
Edmen Shahbazyan turned 22 years old last week. That is not too young, his coach insists, for the undefeated middleweight to be a UFC champion.
Shahbazyan ran his record to 11-0 earlier this month with a first-round knockout of Brad Tavares. That's the same Tavares whose most recent previous fight was a five-round decision loss to Israel Adesanya, who went on to become champ.
Edmond Tarverdyan sees symmetry in that, and he sees opportunity in the symmetry.
Tarverdyan, best known as the trainer for Ronda Rousey as she was becoming the biggest star in MMA, has been working with Shahbazyan at Glendale Fighting Club in Southern California since Shahbazyan was 10 years old.
"He was a little, chubby kid who wanted to do some martial arts," Tarverdyan said during an appearance on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show.
Shahbazyan does not have his next fight booked, and Tarverdyan, who collaborates with Rousey in managing the young fighter's career, is hoping for a return in late February or March. In the interim, he'd like some time to work with Shahbazyan in the gym to further develop his skills.
That is not to suggest that Tarverdyan believes Shahbazyan isn't ready for prime time. Even though Shahbazyan isn't ranked in the ESPN middleweight Top 10, Tarverdyan is confident that his fighter would be up to the task no matter whom he fights -- even Adesanya.
"If they say that we need to fight Israel in March, I promise you I'm 100% confident in my fighter," Tarverdyan said. "We're ready to go."
Shahbazyan has shown an aptitude for fighting from distance, fighting on the inside, wrestling -- all positions where a fight might go.
"If I'm not confident anywhere, I would say that [he's not ready]. But I'm confident everywhere. I hope they're confident where they take the fight," Tarverdyan said, referring to the Adesanya team. "Because wherever they take it, this kid's ready."
If Rozenstruik beats Overeem, his callout is ready
"For me, beating Alistair Overeem means a lot, but the fight I'm looking for is the Francis Ngannou fight," Rozenstruik said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "He's a big, scary guy, and I think that's amazing. Put two big heavyweights who hit hard, and we'll create a bomb in the Octagon. That's what we're looking for. I like exciting fights, so for me, that will be a great fight."
Rozenstruik's last two bouts created immediate fireworks as he knocked out Allen Crowder and Andrei Arlovski in a combined 38 seconds. Meanwhile, Ngannou, ESPN's No. 3-ranked heavyweight, has had seven first-round stoppages in his past nine fights.
"If you're looking to be the best in the world, you have to beat the best in the world," Rozenstruik said. "That's a big challenge, and I really want to do that challenge for myself and to entertain the UFC fans. I think everybody wants to see that fight."
Robert Whittaker wants Darren Till next
It has been less than two months since Robert Whittaker lost the UFC middleweight title to Israel Adesanya, but he said he's ready for his next challenge after taking about a week and a half to get over the defeat.
Whittaker has a name in mind: Darren Till. Both Whittaker and Till seem interested in competing against each other in 2020, and they've traded jabs on social media.
"I love it," Whittaker said of Till's barbs. "I love that sort of humor, the little subtle commenting on everything I put up. I genuinely like it."
Whittaker also enjoyed Till's latest performance, a split-decision win over Kelvin Gastelum on Nov. 2 at UFC 244 in his debut at middleweight. The fight wasn't exactly action-packed, but it was one Whittaker said he appreciated. He even called Till's performance "amazing."
"I think [Gastelum] has dropped everybody he's fought against, just about. He didn't do that to Till," Whittaker said. "He didn't take too much damage. Till negated a lot of Gastelum's strengths. I thought it was a textbook, really smart fight."
Chris Weidman discusses bringing his kids to a fight
Weidman used loss as teaching moment for his kids
Chris Weidman explains what it was like having his kids backstage for his most recent fight and that he wanted it to be a learning experience for them.
Randy Couture feeling better after heart attack
MMA fans have likely heard the story of how Randy Couture recently did the unthinkable. While suffering an apparent heart attack, the UFC Hall of Famer who built a reputation for his toughness walked several blocks from his gym in Los Angeles following a workout to the hospital.
On the Helwani Show, the 56-year-old Couture revealed that things could have ended tragically had he put off seeking medical help for what he thought was a popped rib.
In reality, Couture was having what he referred to as a "widow maker," in which a major artery that moves blood to the heart gets almost or completely blocked. One can die without emergency treatment.
"My thick blood had created a giant clot in my main artery -- the widow maker, of course," Couture said. "If I had waited another 30 or 40 minutes, it might have been a different outcome."
"What kind of outcome?" Helwani asked.
Couture's reply was rather chilling.
"The widow maker is called the widow maker for a reason."
After having surgery and spending two nights in the hospital, Couture was allowed to go home. And he got there in the most fitting way.
"Well, I walked in here," Couture said. "By God, I'm walking home."