Let me make one thing clear from the very beginning: I’m not trying to say that it wasn’t newsworthy — even inspirational — when Fallon Fox first came out as a transgender MMA fighter. Transgender individuals are extremely prone to harassment, discrimination, violence and bigoted stereotyping — all tragically evident by looking at the Facebook posts and tweets that have been directed at Fox since she came out roughly one month ago. I am in full support of her rights to be socially acknowledged and treated as any other woman would be treated outside of the cage.
Yet during this past month, Fallon Fox has received more attention for simply existing (she’s 0-0 since coming out) than most professionals have received for actually fighting. We’ve seen numerous fighters come forward to offer their opinions on whether or not Fox should be allowed to compete against women. Some have managed to do so in a reasonable, intelligent manner. Others have spoken about “it” as if she isn’t even human. For that matter, even people who aren’t MMA fighters have expressed a willingness to compete against her.
Mind you, this was all before Matt Mitrione called Fox “a lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak” on Monday’s edition of “The MMA Hour,” earning him an indefinite suspension from the UFC.
Despite the punishment, UFC fighters are still willing to discuss Fallon Fox — who, let’s remember, doesn’t even fight in the UFC — with reporters. Yesterday, The New York Post published an interview with one of the most talented, popular, and accomplished female fighters of all time, Ronda Rousey. A total of zero questions had anything to do with Rousey’s own future in the sport, instead focusing on how she feels about potentially fighting Fallon Fox:
“She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has,” Rousey told The Post. “It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Rousey said Mitrione worded his views “extremely poorly” and believes the UFC was justified in suspending the heavyweight fighter. But she thinks his sentiments came from the right place. In Rousey’s opinion, Mitrione believes Fox is still a man, who wants to beat up women for a living.
“I understand the UFC doesn’t want to be associated with views like that,” Rousey said. “I’m also glad they didn’t straight cut him.”
Speaking of questionable word choices, I can’t help but feel that her usage of the word “pecker” is going to create an overreaction among the mainstream media outlets. But I digress.
It’s right around now — when accomplished athletes such as Ronda Rousey and Alexis Davis are fielding questions about Fallon Fox instead of their own careers — that we in the MMA media need to stop and ask ourselves what we’re actually doing. Are we really respecting a woman’s right to be treated as any other female, or are we treating Fallon Fox like a sideshow and milking her transgender status for as many page views as we can get?
Because — let’s be honest — if we’re truly concerned with treating Fallon Fox the way that we’d treat any other woman, we wouldn’t continue to force her name into interviews and conference calls. As Jonathan Snowden recently argued, Fox is a thirty-seven year old fighter competing in a small-time, regional promotion that even most hardcore MMA fans wouldn’t recognize. She is 2-0 in her professional career, but has yet to fight an opponent who has actually won a professional bout. She has not been offered a contract by the UFC, Invicta, or Bellator. This is all to say that she hasn’t accomplished anything yet that justifies the non-stop media attention that she has received for the past month.
Giving Fox undue attention over her transgender status isn’t embracing her so much as it’s exploiting her. Forcing her into conversations with UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez isn’t being tolerant, it’s being a carnival barker — we’re emphasizing what makes her different in hopes of generating reactions from other people. Emphasizing her reputation over her skills and accomplishments wades into Kimbo Slice territory; that’s bound to make the fans’ reactions that much more harsh when she actually loses. Also, when former UFC heavyweight Sean McCorkle starts looking for ways to involve himself in this story by taking credit for Mitrione’s suspension-earning jokes, it’s safe to say that we’re no longer coming from a place of acceptance.
This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to make the distinction between Fallon Fox the woman and Fallon Fox the fighter. As of now, there is no conclusive evidence that transgender females do not have unfair competitive advantages over their opponents. There is research that suggests that unfair advantages exist. There is also research that suggests they do not. Another “MMA fighter says Fox has/doesn’t have a competitive advantage” article isn’t going to bring anything new to the discussion.
But you know what will bring something new to the discussion? The result of her fight against Allana Jones on May 24th. After that we might be able to gauge what kind of future — if any — she has in our sport. We’ll be able to publish a story about Fox that’s actually pertinent to what she has been doing in the cage. And if we’re truly concerned with treating her as an equal, we can hold off on cramming her into our headlines until then.