A transgender mixed martial arts fighter is about to put her perfect record on the line in South Florida. And the battle isn’t just in the ring.
Those highly popular MMA cage fights are getting lots of attention this week from people who don’t normally attend or tune in. A woman who used to be a man has the green light from the state to participate against a female opponent Friday night in Coral Gables – and there’s no shortage of supporters and critics.
“I'm just another woman, just like any of them. I just come from a different background,“ Fallon Fox said.
Fox knows as the first transgender fighter in the MMA cage events she’s breaking barriers. She is in South Florida to step into the cage again Friday night at the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center, where she will face off against Allana Jones.
The reality for Fox is her life before as a man is difficult to escape.
“I expected there to be some pushback from some people,” Fox said.
Fox so far is undefeated at 5-0. At a bout in Coral Gables in March she made quick work of her opponent, knocking her out just 39 seconds after the bell rang.
“I don't feel I have any advantage,” Fox said. “I can't see what advantages I would have.”
But some people don’t see it that way, and a complaint was filed concerning how Fox got her MMA participant license with the Florida State Boxing Commission. When she applied in Florida she indicated that she was licensed in California, but she hadn’t been fully licensed there because her application was under a medical review, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation said. The agency ultimately dismissed the complaint, saying that Fox did not commit fraud or deceit when she secured her Florida license.
“I was pretty sure that in the end they were going to come to the conclusion that I deserved to be licensed and that I am just as female as any other competitor,” Fox said.
Experts say the boxing commission in essence is caught in a catch-22. While their lawyers have already determined that Fox can participate in the fight on Friday, the boxing commission also has another duty – its primary one – to make sure that no one gets hurt.
“I think it’s crazy. I think she's going to hurt another female,” said former professional fighter Mickey Demos.
He trains female and male athletes as the University of Miami boxing coach.
“She's basically a man with lower testosterone levels,” Demos said. “She built up her strength when she had higher testosterone levels as a youngster. She has a residual muscle base.“
Amateur boxer Syeda Fahmin said, “Just because she was born as a man, physically she’s just different. She’s built differently – everything about her. If you look at her hands and my hands they're going to be different. Her shoulders are different. Her strength is different.”
But Fox calls the arguments against her similar to what was done to minority and gay athletes before.
“Now, it’s transsexuals in sports. I think they need to look at me as a person, just realize I have passion for my sport and I just want to do what everyone else is doing, and I love what I do,” she said.
One person who isn’t concerned is Fox’s opponent. Jones says Fox is the one who’s going to get knocked out.
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