(“The reason I put it into the book is there are a lot of people that have a secret like this…and if that’s weighing you down, then get rid of it.” / Frank Shamrock on his own experience with sexual abuse)
By Brian J. D’Souza
The storylines emerging from the latest all-female season of The Ultimate Fighter are the usual potpourri of banal tripe: Angela Hill passes gas; Felice Herrig is disliked by her cast mates; Carla Esparaza has a crush on Urijah Faber, and so forth.
As much as the search for the UFC’s first flyweight champion should make headlines, there’s a darker undertone to the proceedings that Oprah Winfrey would be much more suited to handle than FOX media personality Karyn Bryant—the issue of sexual abuse and how it relates to MMA.
Outside of mentions like former UFC champion Frank Shamrock revealing he’d been sexually abused in his groundbreaking autobiography Uncaged, overall, there has been little or no press on MMA athletes who have been sexually abused. The moratorium on coverage might be because MMA is a relatively new sport; it might be because journalists feel uncomfortable asking these kinds of personal questions or it may be an attempt to protect the victims. Either way, the decision to open up lies solely with the athletes.
Athletes in other combat sports, like boxing, have talked openly about their experiences with sexual abuse. Prior to the 2012 Olympics, USA Boxing president Hal Adonis caused a massive ripple effect when he was quoted in the New Yorker as saying “Half of our girls have been molested; half of our girls are gay,” of the US women’s boxing team.
While Adonis faced widespread condemnation and was suspended for two years in the wake of his insensitive and politically incorrect comments, several Team USA female boxers have told their stories of personal tragedy: lightweight Queen Underwood spoke about being molested by her father to the New York Times in February 2012; flyweight Tyrieshia Douglas told the New Yorker that she’d been beaten and raped in foster care; middleweight Claressa Shields—the only US boxer to win a gold medal at the 2012 games—revealed to Essence magazine that she’d been raped by a family acquaintance as a child.