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Queerphobia in combat sports

Photo of Fallon Fox via Joe Camporeale of USA TODAY Sports

“They’re forcing it onto our children,” “I’m okay with it as long as it’s not shoved in my face,” “I don’t see why they make it their whole personality.” Those who are against the Queer community have parroted these sentiments since they were first uttered. These opinions have crept into every facet of our lives: popular culture, media, sports, and even policy. Sports – while being a broad subject – includes Mixed Martial Arts, and within this community of like-minded pugilists, the irrational distaste for those who don’t fit into the “standard” mold is deep-rooted, and is almost unilaterally supported by the big names in the community.

The man who owns the largest podcast in the world is no stranger to controversy. When the first (of two) transgender MMA fighters first competed, he was one of the earliest to cry foul. He called her – among other things – “A f*cking man,” and nodded to an article titled “Transgender Fighter Breaks Opponent’s Skull.” This article is horrible. The title and contents of the article are specifically tailored to feed into the transphobia of the casual and hardcore fan alike. Quotes like “Transgender MMA Fighter Fallon Fox beat her female opponent Tamika Brents so severely that she suffered a broken skull,” prey on the lack of knowledge of the sport that occasional watchers have. The “broken skull” her opponent suffered refers to an orbital floor breakage, one of the most common injuries in MMA, Boxing, or any other full-contact striking sport. Her opponent also suffered from a concussion (another incredibly common injury). The issue with using this as a point against Fallon Fox is that any KO is an immediate concussion, and many TKOs also lead to concussions. TKO stands for “Technical Knock-Out,” which occurs when a fighter is unable to competently defend themselves anymore.

Fallon Fox would eventually quit the Sport of MMA in 2014, saying that, among other things, Joe Rogan had made her life a “living Hell.” Now in 2022, a new transgender fighter has joined the stage. Her name is Alana McLaughlin, and she is currently 1-0 within the Combate Global promotion in Miami. She defeated her opponent by RNC in the second round, something which Joe Rogan has… applauded. I am aware that people can change their opinions. However, I find it odd that Joe Rogan, who has given many Conservative talking heads a platform, changed his tune on something he seemed very passionate about. Things start to click however, when we remember that Spotify paid Joe Rogan up to 200 million dollars to make the JRE a Spotify-exclusive podcast.

I am not saying that Joe Rogan only supports Alana McLaughlin because Spotify wants him to. What I am saying is that we should take a grain of salt with what Joe Rogan says, and remember his past actions. After all, Joe Rogan is no stranger to controversy.

Another large name in the MMA is Dana White, the President of the UFC. He has also said some interesting things about transgender fighter Fallon Fox, parroting the same old “Fallon Fox is a man who joined MMA to beat women,” which Logan Paul unexpectedly almost refutes, correcting Dana White on Fallon Fox’s pronouns. Dana White, while not outright refuting the idea of trans-fighters in their preferred divisions within the UFC, his general outward attitude towards transgender people seems to indicate that it is not in our future.

What does this mean though? Well, it shows a worrying trend of blind transphobia within all facets of sport and society. This trend isn’t set in stone however; casual and active fans alike can still show support for openly queer athletes and can challenge the bad science that goes along with anti-trans and queerphobic policy. It is only with large support that any athlete is able to compete at the highest level, let alone those whose mere existence is questioned or hated by much of the world.

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