Fallon Fox: Transgender Fighter's Success Putting Promoters in Awkward Spot

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2014

Photo credit: Facebook.com/FallonFoxOfficial

The controversy surrounding Fallon Fox was one of the biggest MMA-related stories of 2013. Of course, how could it not be? A male-to-female transgender was tearing up the regional women's featherweight scene and was one of the star attractions in Florida's Championship Fighting Alliance. While the coverage of Fox has faded in recent months, the story is far from over.

In 2013, Fox's overnight fame was regarded by many as an oddity. A flash in the pan. Something that would ultimately wind up being a random footnote in the evolving story of transgender sports.

Eighteen months later, however, Fallon Fox is no longer just a curious tale...she is one of the better female fighters outside the UFC. That, ladies and gentlemen, is very bad news for all the major promotions out there.

Since news first broke of Fox's transgender status, few MMA personalities haven't voiced their opinion on the topic of Fox competing against women. Some, like former UFC title contender Liz Carmouche threw support behind a fellow member of the LGBT community. Some, like UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione, mercilessly ripped her. Most, like former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate, expressed reluctance regarding the fairness of Fox competing as diplomatically as possible. 

I talk about fighting Tamikka Brents, and that gutless transphobic InvictaFC fighter Charmaine Tweet. http://t.co/7JbsCDXVVK

— Fallon Fox (@FallonFox) September 23, 2014

It was one of the biggest MMA stories of the year, but while dozens of fighters spoke out, MMA promoters were deafeningly silent.

Invicta FC founder Shannon Knapp stayed securely perched on the fence when asked her opinion on Fox in an interview with MMAJunkie.com. UFC President Dana White passed the buck to the state athletic commissions and questioned Fox's experience level. World Series of Fighting's Ray Sefo was quick to sign Ashlee Evans-Smith after she defeated Fox in 2013, but remained mum on Fox herself. Neither former Bellator President Bjorn Rebney nor current President Scott Coker have discussed Fox. 

This was the smart move, of course. Condemning Fox would have brought down harsh criticism from organizations like GLAAD. Worse yet, it would have put an unwelcome magnifying glass on the historically terrible relationship between MMA (and the UFC in particular) and the LGBT community.

Defending Fox, meanwhile, would have put the respective promotions in an awkward "put your money where your mouth is" position. For example, if White had been completely supportive of Fox, how could he justify not having her on the roster, while employing the likes of 1-0 Aleksandra Albu or the 1-4 (1) Jessica Rakoczy?

Worse yet, if Fox actually wound up in the UFC, it would put even more of a spotlight on the less-than-enlightened comments of people like Mitrione which, in turn, once again brings out that magnifying glass.

The best-case scenario for all the top promoters, frankly, was for Fox to quietly fade away. It was most certainly a possibility, too, given how Fox was 37 years old when she became a household name and had just two professional fights. Had she retired after several months, or if she had shaken out to be a .500 fighter, the UFC, Invicta, WSOF and Bellator all would have been able quietly work around her.

Neither of those things have happened. 

Fox has put together what, in most cases, would be an attention-grabbing 5-1 record, with all her wins coming via stoppage. Not only that, but she has demonstrated an ability to compete at a reasonably high level at both 135 and 145 pounds, which would hypothetically enable her to compete for all four of the top promotions which feature (or will feature, in Bellator's case) bantamweight and/or featherweight women's MMA.

However, as Fox continues racking up wins, it's hard to look at her continued presence on the regional scene as anything other than major promotions actively trying to avoid her. Looking over those promotions' recent and upcoming cards, and seeing fighters with even records (be it 4-4, 2-2 or 0-0), certainly doesn't help that perception. The UFC, Bellator, WSOF and Invicta won't be able to continue ignoring Fox for much longer.

Eventually, Fox will score a fight in Nevada. Eventually, Fox will get a big-name opponent. Eventually, Fox's record will be too impressive to ignore. 

Eventually, the major promotions will have to take a stand on Fox, one way or another.


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