Ever since Caitlyn Jenner came out to the public as a transgender woman, everyone from news to social media had their say about her. Some people are toting her as being brave for standing up for herself, choosing her own path. Others on the other hand are petitioning to have her Olympic Gold Medal revoked (which failed by the way). Despite whatever side people stand on pertaining to Jenner’s decision, it has brought the transgender discussion once again to the forefront.
Now, said discussion has once again found its way into MMA, specifically Fallon Fox. So, the question that is being rationalized and debated is if transgender athletes should compete in the MMA.
For those who do not know, Fallon Fox is an American MMA fighter recognized for being one of the first transgender females allowed to fight in the sport. Said recognition happened back in 2013, but would increase after winning her latest fight against Tamikka Brents via TKO with punches, 2:17 into the first round at CCCW: The Undertaking on September 13, 2014.
The aforementioned fight placed promoters in an awkward spot when questioned about transgender MMA athletes, like Fallon Fox, as reported by the Bleacher Report. Shannon Knapp (Invicta FC founder) stayed on the fence in general. Dana White (UFC president) passed it to the state athletic commissions. Ray Sefo (WSOF president) remained quiet on the matter, which is the same for both Bjorn Rebney or Scott Cocker (Bellator MMA presidents).
The perceived reason why the big names behind promotions are awkwardly avoiding discussion is the controversial debate that is associated with it. Going back to Fallon Fox’s most recent fight, Life Site reports that Fox not only won her fight, but she decimated her opponent. After the fight, Tamikka Brents suffered a damaged orbital bone requiring seven staples and a concussion.
After the fight, Tamikka Brents would eventually make an appearance on Whoa TV, in which she detailed what she experienced going one-on-one against Fallon Fox.
“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 [he] was born a man or not, because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life, and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right.”
And just to be clear, Tamikka Brents isn’t the only one to voice her opinion against Fallon Fox. Ashlee Evans-Smith made it clear that Fox shouldn’t fight women, according to MMA Interviews. That statement is monumental because it came from the only MMA fighter to hand Fox her only loss.
Still, this can of worms has been opened way to wide to be ignored, and the argument will always sway towards an individual’s view of gender being mental and emotional or strictly physical. Paris Lees of Vice is in support of the transgender community. Therefore, her article about Fallon Fox utilizes a medical study by Dr. Eric Vilain, director of the Institute of Society and Genetics at UCLA, to back her opinion Fox is a woman.
“Dr. Eric Vilain – director of the Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA – examined Fallon’s medical records and pointed out that ‘male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males.’ She’s totally within the normal female range in terms of height, fitness, and strength. Which kind of takes me back to my original point: Fallon Fox is a woman.”
However, RJ Gardner of The MMA Corner provided medical insight that counters what Dr. Eric Vilain stated. According to Dr. Ramona Krtuzick, Fallon Fox is technically at an advantage despite going through complete gender reassignment.
“Typically, you’re looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and sexual reassignment surgery to really start to see significant changes in bone density. It’s been too early for her to see much of a decrease in bone mass or to make her equal to that of a female. She started off with a much higher bone density than other women her same age, and therefore will maintain a lot of that for a while. Additionally, because she is taking estrogen, that will actually help to maintain that bone mass. Women also have lighter, child bearing hips because of the difference in hormones during the body’s developmental years. Her skeleton and body mass and shape developed a long time ago. Those changes cannot be undone. They are permanent.”
“Her testosterone levels are more than likely in the normal female range, since her adrenals are the primary source for it now. She didn’t undergo hormone therapy and surgery until she was fully developed. She had the potential to be significantly stronger because her muscle development reached several years beyond full maturity, giving her the potential to be significantly stronger than other age matched women. There’s really no way to determine how much her muscle mass will decrease over time. What can be said is that she has a naturally higher propensity to build and maintain muscle mass because she was once a fully developed, adult male. You can’t ever take that away from her.”
The debate on transgender individuals – like Fallon Fox – fighting in the MMA will continue until a full-proof study shows otherwise. Until then, all opinions – including the professional medical kind – are, as they say, just opinions. However, if there is one group of people whose opinions probably matter the most, it is those who fought against a transgender individual. They know by experience if transgender women are fighting at an advantage or not.
[Image via Fallon Fox’s Facebook Page]