Opinion: The Great Fallon Fox Debate
By Jesse Heitz
Today, I officially enter the fray regarding Fallon Fox. I had erroneously anticipated that this discussion would quickly die down, that it was nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan story that would create a short-lived media frenzy. Little did I know that this was a story that would endure and continue to cause shockwaves throughout the MMA community.
As many readers are aware, Fallon Fox is MMA’s first known transgendered fighter, and recently her story has been setting the MMA world on fire. Like any serious topic of discussion, this issue of whether someone like Fallon Fox, who was born as a man but after gender reassignment surgeries and therapies has become a woman, should be allowed to fight women, has people deeply divided.
On one hand you have people like standout Miesha Tate and UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, who in firm opposition to the notion of Fallon Fox competing against women, expressed his views during his podcast by stating,
“You can’t fight women when you have a man’s frame…Women aren’t that wide, which translates to increased punching power. Women don’t have that muscle structure. I don’t know if you’re supplementing testosterone, if your body isn’t producing testosterone, why are your arms so big?”
“She’s won two fights by brutal knockout…She’s crushed two women inside the first round. There are a couple of small companies that are willing to allow somebody like this to fight. It’s fucked up. The mechanical function of punching, a man can do it much harder than a woman can, period.”
“I support your right to do whatever (gender reassignment) you want to do…The real issue comes with violent competition with women and the reality of the physical structure of your body, and the reality of physical structure is not fair. You can’t say that a 145-pound man and a 145-pound woman are equal, because they’re not. That’s like saying a 30-pound poodle and a 30-pound pit bull are just two dogs, because they’re not. One of them has distributed its mass in quite a different way. It’s built for quite a different purpose. Men are built for smashing shit…Women aren’t built for hyper-explosive violence.”
On the other hand, there are female fighters such as Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, who believe that not only should Fox be allowed to fight, but that she’d be open to fighting Fox herself. In a recent interview with ESPN, Santos stated,
“She wants to be a girl. I don’t agree. I think you’re born a girl, you’re a girl. You’re born a guy, you’re a guy. But I don’t choose opponents. The commission needs to check and make sure she doesn’t have testosterone.
“People tell me on Twitter: ‘I think you have a d—.’ A lot of bad things, they say. I think people have a small mind. They don’t think a girl can punch hard like a man. I think people are ignorant. People are stupid. I don’t want to be the same as people who do that.
…I’m not going to judge other people. If the commission says she can fight, why not?”
One can understand the point Joe Rogan is trying to make here. That despite the surgical procedures that encompass gender reassignment surgery and the hormone therapy that usually follows, structurally a transgendered person like Fallon Fox is different than a man, perhaps in a way that provides an unfair advantage. It could very well be possible that Miesha Tate harbors plausible fears about her and other female fighters’ safety should they fight Fox.
However, it’s important to remember that Fox is 37 years old, with two fights under her belt—against subpar competition that is reported to have a combined 0-5 MMA record. This sport was born out of matchups that could have caused great bodily harm. That was the point of the first UFC, to matchup a 170-pound Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist with a 250-pound Olympic-caliber wrestler, all with virtually no rules. The sport has perpetuated such mismatches with regularity, be it in an open-weight grand prix fashion, or in the “freak show” type of matches that were once a mainstay of Japanese MMA promotions.
In the end, it is possible that there could be a danger posed by a genetic edge possessed by transgendered fighters, but is such an advantage—should it exist, any more dangerous than a fighter taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs? In a combat sport, such as MMA, there are inherent risks, as such, nobody such as Miesha Tate should be forced to face Fox if they don’t want to, but by that same token, someone like “Cyborg” Santos should (given that Fox’s testosterone levels are within the normal range for female fighters of that weight class) be allowed to fight Fox if she so desires.