How Fallon Fox became the first Transgender MMA fighter and subsequently became the lightning rod in the fierce debate over the regulation of transgender athletes in modern day sport.
If you are a fan of the Joe Rogan podcast you may have heard him discussing the transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox. His comments brought massive attention to her case and the wider debate on competitive transgender athletes. This discussion is part of a wider debate around sex and gender which is currently ongoing on in western society.
Fallon fox was born a biological male in 1975 in Toledo, Ohio. In various interviews she has described how she struggled with her gender from a very early age. In her teens she believed that she was a gay man and was unaware of the existence of other transgender people.
She continued to live as a heterosexual male in her teens. and married her then girlfriend at 19. Her then wife soon became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. After this Fox decided to join the Navy as a way to support her new family. After completing her navy service she attended the University of Toledo for a short time before dropping out citing anxiety and depression issues caused by what he now feels was gender dysphoria.
Fox’s relationship with her wife broke down sometime after this period. After winning custody of their daughter she moved to Chicago. She worked during this period as a truck driver and spent her spare time on the road reading and researching about transgender issues. She saved her earnings from driving towards the fund for her planned gender reassignment surgery.
In 2006 she traveled to Bangkok in Thailand to undergo gender reassignment surgery. She underwent a number of other surgeries in Bangok and the US including breast augmentation and hair transplant to compete her feminization.
Her introduction to the world of MMA came through Jiu-Jitsu in 2008. She taught MMA was something she could do and took her first amateur fight in 2011. After winning that fight by TKO she decided to take a pro fight in 2012 on the KOTC Wild Card show. She was victorious again winning by a Knockout by way of a knee to the head. Soon after this rumors began to circulate about her past. It became clear to Fox that the story about her gender reassignment was about to break and she decided to get ahead of it by giving an interview to Sports Illustrated.
After this interview it became more difficult for Fallon Fox to find shows that were willing to give her a match. Despite this she managed to have another 4 professional fights in which she lost only one. However the final result of her 6th match would significantly the feeling about Fox’s participation. In this bout Fox’s opponent suffered a broken skull and a concussion after being dominated quickly in the first round.
After the fight, Tamika Brents gave a hard hitting interview about the power and strength advantage that she felt Fox had during their fight.
“I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right… I still disagree with Fox fighting. Any other job or career I say have a go at it, but when it comes to a combat sport I think it just isn’t fair.”
This interview and the footage below outraged many people and led to some hard questions being asked about the promoters and athletic commissions that allowed the fight to ahead. A broken skull is not completely unheard of in MMA but the fact that a female athlete sustained it at the hands of a trans woman meant that it had a much greater significance.
When the story of Fallon Fox’s first few MMA bouts came to light it led many people to question how a person born as a biological male was given a license to compete in MMA against women. The athletic commissions never commented on her particular case. However it is likely that Fox met the required limits for Testosterone to compete in the female division.
However many people such as Joe Rogan claimed that Fox has significant other advantages. These include a higher both density and stronger musculature as a result of living as an adult male before transitioning.
Fox responded to these claims in a series of editorials aimed specifically at comments made by Rogan and Ronda Rousey.
Fox is now in her forties has not fought since 2014. She has a record of 5-1 and has not clearly indicated if she has plans to compete in the future. Despite her inactivity, her name is continually cited in the transgender athlete debate that rages on. Because of the inherent risk of injury in MMA, the case of Fox is an extreme example of danger associated with combat athletes that may have a significant biological advantage.
The debate goes on
The debate is extremely heated and has even spread to school sports. In 2018 a 18 year old transgender wrestler caught the headlines after winning the girls division in a high school tournament for the 2nd year in a row. Video from the event showed a mix of cheers and boos from a crowd. This footage was broadcast on national TV. Many parents and teachers were angry that despite the girl was allowed to compete against their own kids.
The incident was another example of how the debate has polarized society. Since then the debate has become even more heated. The number of people deciding to change there gender is being described as a phenomenon. The consistent citing and referencing of Fox own case makes her hard to see how she could compete again. Depending on your point of view this is either good for the sport or else a setback for transgender athletes.
At the end of 2019 the debate was ignited again when the SB Nation sports publication Outsports included Fallon Fox in their amended list of 25 athletes entitled “A Decade of Heroes”. This list honored LGBTQ athletes who had a positive impact on the 2010s. The original list was specifically edited after Fox criticized the fact that there were no Transgender athletes included on the list. The same publication also published an article entitled “Fallon Fox is still the bravest athlete in history”
This article came under fierce criticism from a number of different areas including MMA fans, feminists, and other sports and social commentators. Despite the fact that Fallon Fox is no longer competing and is unlikely to compete in a major MMA event again, Fox continues to be the example that is used to discuss the participation of Trans athletes in combat sports.