My first reaction about the whole Fallon Fox controversy was, “So?” Being naive, the first thing I did was look at her record: 3-0 against meager opposition. Then, I watched in puzzled amusement as everyone from Ronda Rousey to Joe Rogan gave their two cents on whether Fox should be fighting other women.
The thing that confused me the most is that fighters like Rousey and Miesha Tate were weighing in on whether they would fight Fox. I wondered, “Why are they even bothering? She’s 37 years old and has three professional fights, and they’re in the UFC!”
I didn’t bother to throw my own opinion into the mix, mostly because I didn’t think it was necessary. I had mentally relegated the Fallon Fox story to that of whether Herschel Walker deserved a spot on a main card in a Strikeforce event, or whether quadriplegic athlete Kyle Maynard should be able to fight in MMA. In other words, it was a story that was little interesting, but not something that affects the upper echelons of the sport, and ultimately just traffic bait for MMA sites that don’t have enough news to fill each day and have grown increasingly attracted to stories like Fox’s, simply because of the controversy involved.
Lost amidst all of the “Hey, Prominent Female Fighter, would you fight Fallon Fox?” stories polluting the web were a few really interesting takes on the situation (and no, I’m not talking about Joe Rogan’s rant on his podcast, sorry). There was a transgender person’s take on the controversy, and Bloody Elbow’s insightful interview with an actual sex reassignment physician, for example.
However, the MMA personalities who have been giving their own (often uninformed) opinions on the matter have instead decided to only consider evidence that fits their pre-conceived notions, such as another Bloody Elbow interview, this time with orthopedic surgeon Johnny Benjamin. Benjamin cites (although more eloquently) the same kind of bone structure/length concerns that other detractors have, but the guy is an orthopedic surgeon…sex reassignment is outside of his area of expertise.
So, Rogan and others continue to cite their “bro science” that essentially boils down to, “Come on, I mean your hands are bigger as a guy, right? Your bones are…like, thicker and stuff,” even though experts in the field of sex reassignment have said that Fox’s situation does not likely present any kind of sizeable advantage. That’s all just the physical side of the story, of course.
Another thing entirely is the strange theory that Fox was a crazed man who went through sex reassignment and became a female just because he wanted to legally beat up girls. Now as a female, he can do just that.
Are we really to believe that? I mean, how often has this happened in other sports? Have any decent college basketball players changed genders so they could play in the WNBA, knowing they didn’t have what it took to play in the NBA itself? I think people are underestimating the seriousness of sex reassignment, if they think someone would make a permanent decision to undergo it just to fight against women in a cage.
Look, the IOC already allows transgender athletes to compete among their new gender in the Olympics. Like it or not, women like Fox will be able to compete in the future against other women. The fact that the newly LGBT-friendly UFC has already suspended Matt Mitrione for what was a rather mild rant against Fox on The MMA Hour that nonetheless, contained unnecessary personal attacks against Fox shows that they aren’t about to discriminate against transgender fighters. The question is when, not if, someone who has changed genders will have the kind of success needed to ascend to the UFC’s roster.
At 37 years old and with a lot left to prove, it may not end up being Fallon Fox. However, as I should have realized much earlier, this isn’t really about her, but instead about future transgender athletes. When someone asks Rousey whether she’d fight Fox, they’re really asking “Should women like Fox be able to fight women like you?” And that’s an important question, even if Rousey herself ultimately won’t be the one making the decision.