Article by Dave Walsh
Realistically, I’ve been watching MMA since the mid-90’s, when the UFC was still fresh, new and kind of dangerous. In my Kenpo classes they were all of the rage, where kids who saw it would exaggerate, claiming that Royce Gracie was killing guys in the ring, which only made people want to watch it more. It quickly moved, for me, into tape trading on the internet and trying to get as much information about the No Holds Barred world as possible. In a way the sport has grown a lot since then, but there are still questions of whether or not it is ready for prime time, and there is no better litmus test than the non-issue of transgender fighter Fallon Fox from Florida.
The issue has been, if you haven’t been paying attention, that a fighter by the name of Fallon Fox in Florida recently fought. It was revealed that she was not born as a she, but instead a he, and is transgendered. This has become a hot-button issue for the MMA community, as a 38 year old fighter squeezing whatever is left out of her career is either offensive or scary to some people. We’ve seen people digging into her past, people consulting less-than-expert opinions from doctors who have no clue and so on.
This issue has somehow spilled over into the UFC, as media have been hounding anyone that will listen about the topic, which has led to Matt Hughes calling her an “it,” Joe Rogan going off an a weird rant on his podcast and most recently, Matt Mitrione absolutely burying himself and his career into the ground on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour. Read about the lot of them here. What’s interesting is that Hughes is now VP of Talent Relations, with the idea being to prevent stuff like this, yet he is just as bad as any of the fighters are now, if not worse. Joe Rogan got away with it because he is a “comedian” and was talking about it on his own show. Since Hughes and Rogan were untouchable to the UFC, Matt Mitrione became the example and was suspended for his comments.
There are lessons to be learned here and I’m not sure that anyone is going to really learn anything. People always want to talk about the sport becoming “mainstream,” but if there ever was anything holding it back, it would be the public image of the fighters as dumb brutes who pound on each other. Sure, being politically correct is not exactly a prerequisite for professional athletes, as professional athletes in all sports do ridiculous, dumb things and sometimes say things even worse.
The problem with MMA — the UFC in general — is that Dana White is the voice and image of the company. Dana White being the same guy who has had to do forced apologies to women, GLAAD, journalists, etc. for his awful behavior. We all want MMA to make more steps forward, but until an issue like a transgendered fighter can be handled in a civil, organize, transparent manner forget it.