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By: Brad Walker MMATorch Columnist
Writer's Note: I had the chance this week to sit down and speak with the first transgender fighter in the history of MMA; Fallon Fox. I wanted to discuss some of the backlash and clear up the controversy surrounding her coming out, and give her a voice to the people. She was very open, honest and educational as we talked – and I can truly say I was greatly enlightened by the things that she had to say. I ask that you read this interview with an open mind, and no bias based on the things that have already been said in other locations about this woman.
WALKER: So to address the elephant in the room; what's it like to break down such a huge barrier in mixed martial arts?
FOX: I haven't really thought about it like that. I guess I feel a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to present myself well and stand up for the rights of trans people in general, and for the whole of the LGBT community and those who don't understand us.
WALKER: For clarity purposes; you are a female in all aspects, you work, breathe, live, train, fight, and exist as a female. Biologically, physically, and biophysically as well.
WALKER: With the amount of years since your surgery, your levels of bodily hormones and all other things would put you on par with a normal female of your age?
FOX: Right, I tend to put myself on par; let me clarify things, yes I have had my gender reassignment surgery and I have been on hormones for years and years and years, not to mention that after my surgery I can't even produce the amount of testosterone that a normal female would produce.
WALKER: So you actually have low testosterone then?
FOX: Yes, I have low t – I have very rare low T, lower than normal women. I hear people say things like 'she has a superior advantage because she's got higher testosterone,' but it's completely reverse. And they say I have higher bone density too which isn't true – it's the opposite.
WALKER: I know with the bone density, osteoporosis can be a huge factor for Trans women as well.
FOX: That's true, that's why I have to keep on the estrogen. If I go off of it I will have some post-menopausal like symptoms, I'll have hot flashes and everything – I've experienced it before right after my surgery because I wasn't allowed to be on my hormones, I couldn't during recuperation, and oh my God it was bad, if you could imagine very, very, very slight estrogen and very slight testosterone it was what a normal female goes through during menopause.
WALKER: So what prompted you coming out with your transgender status?
FOX: There was a reporter after my last fight, I was sitting at dinner and he called me and said he had found out some information about my past, I knew what he was talking about, he called back again and I asked where he got this information, and he told me there was some fighters out there who didn't like the idea of me fighting. So from what he said it sounded like some fighters had heard, there were already rumors circulating from people who knew me before.
WALKER: So it wasn't a conglomerate of fighters coming together to a reporter like "Stop this girl from fighting!" was it?
FOX: I don't know, I really can't say, things are still a little hazy, I'd like to know from him who said this. I don't know, there's been speculation maybe, the fighters from the tournament could have seen me as a threat and heard the rumor and wanted to say something.
WALKER: When you came out did you think the MMA community was going to be so negative? There are people like Joe Rogan, Dana White who called you 'he', and Pat Miletich who have been outwardly negative towards your situation.
FOX: I haven't really paid much attention to what Pat Miletich said, but I have heard the audio of what Joe Rogan said. I just have been like reading things but not too much, I don't want to stress myself out too much, I was sure a lot of people in the community were going to be against me, because they really aren't … accepting – and they have their nose in fighting so much or things fight related that they don't hit the books. They're uneducated on things because they're so focused on one aspect of their lives. They're not doctors but they think that they are, they talk like they are, and they pretend they are; they actually think they know what they're talking about, but they don't know how to rationally and scientifically come to a conclusion or listen to people who have studied this for years and years and years.
WALKER: Are you familiar with Steven Cowder from Fox News? He said you shouldn't be allowed to beat up women, and compared you to Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong saying that having male testosterone for part of your life and compared that to using steroids.
FOX: It doesn't make any sense. I try not to pay attention to anything Fox News puts out, because Fox News pretends to be news but they're not, they're a mouth piece of the political right and they've been an enemy of the LGBT community for years, it wouldn't matter if I transitioned when I was 30 or 3, they'd say the same thing. They're a hate filled pseudo news organization who bases the LGBT community no matter what.
WALKER: You kind of got media blitzed; was that hard to handle when everything came out?
FOX: The night that I got the call, he called my manager and was digging, then he called a friend of mine who I trained with, Lana Steffinac, she's a bad ass black belt and BJJ fighter, and he got it from her. She wasn't trying to be mean, she was trying to stand up for me. He said he had enough to go on, that he was going to out me regardless, now why would I go and talk to a person like that? If he's going to do it anyways? I went someplace else and got ahead of it at SI.com.
WALKER: Jorge (De La Noval) has been a big supporter of yours, so has Liz Carmouche.
FOX: Jorge's awesome; he's done everything right in backing me up and supporting me.
WALKER: There have also been fighters who have spoken out against you; Miesha Tate said she wouldn't fight you for instance. Do you think women are going to be more hesitant to fight you?
FOX: The lower tiered fighters are going to be more hesitant to fight me, I have good technique and I am strong, but not Cris Cyborg strong. I'm a really good fighter and they're going to put out any excuse not to fight me. If it was anyone else and they had an excuse they would do it too. They want to pick and choose who to fight; it's the ultimate excuse, if they can eliminate me, that's one less fighter in the way. Miesha Tate too sees the potential and she wants to eliminate it. There are other fighters who haven't seen anything. Cyborg said she would fight me, she's not going to worry about it, she's a top tier fighter. And Liz Carmouche is top tier; Ronda Rousey said she'd fight me, there are a lot of other fighters who won't, but that's just the way it's going to be. The ones who are good and feel they're equal are going to fight me.
WALKER: So the more elite fighters are going to step up?
FOX: And that's fine with me, I don't want to fight nobodies, I'm not in this to beat up on women who have no business fighting because of their skill level and the time they put in. I got into this because I wanted to be like the other top tier fighters in the sport. That's what I want. I'm not in it for popularity like the fighters who go online and cut people down to get on TV that's not me. I'm just not in it for that.
WALKER: How long do you think you can make your career now that you're 37?
FOX: Maybe 42? I'm not sure.
WALKER: Dan Henderson style?
FOX: Yes! Exactly
WALKER: Has age become a factor in your training at all?
FOX: Hmm, I don't know, I can't say really. I didn't compete in MMA when I was younger, from when I first started training five years ago I think I may have more pep in my step, and better endurance. But I was heavier than too.
WALKER: What do you cut from? I know Cyborg cuts from about 170.
FOX: Right now I'm 153 but 170? No, no, no way, I can't do that that would be impossible, like no! That's just ridiculous for a woman to do, and me I take so many hormones and my fat displacement it's hard for me to lose weight. When I cut to 135 that was hard for me, I could still do it and compete there, but I'd rather be at 145 and shave off six or seven pounds and go, it feels more healthy.
WALKER: When Dana White spoke about you he addressed rumors of you entering the UFC where do you stand on that?
FOX: Everybody wants to talk about me in the UFC, if that came of course I'd take it, yeah, but I want to take it as high as I can. But that's not like, I don't know, my biggest goal. I think the perfect place for me would be Invicta, I love that place, they have a lot more talent there, they're more respectful to their fighters. Shannon Knapp is fantastic and I would like to fight in an all-female promotion. That would be awesome, an all-female promotion that would be great.
WALKER: Combining all your pro and amateur fights you have three submissions and two knock outs in 7 minutes and 57 seconds. Can you keep that up?
FOX: I really haven't had top tier competition yet, and when I get another top tier fighter, someone who has the skill and talent and puts in work like I do the fights will be longer. Everyone looks at my record like it's only been under 8 minutes. Look at Kaitlin Young's record – her record started better than mine. The times of her fights were like 20 seconds, 30 seconds 50 seconds. All knockouts. It's sick, I'm not the only one there's a lot of other women, and Veronica Rothenhauser knocked out Ashley Evans Smith in five seconds. But everyone's looking at my record like 'you beat this girl in 36 seconds look at that!' There's over evaluation and over blowing my technique and skill and power and athleticism. It's not to the point that everybody thinks that it is.
WALKER: There's a perception that you could kill someone, Joe Rogan actually stated that because of the size of your hands.
FOX: Let me show you my hands, look here – so you can compare. And how does he know what my f***ing hands look like? Has he seen me without MMA gloves, do they really look huge? They make it seem like my hands are going to be twice as huge as they are, like my shoulders and my build are so much bigger than they are.
WALKER: No not at all, your hands look very normal to me for a 5'7 woman.
FOX: If you don't mind me saying, I put out a photo on my Facebook fan page of me and my last opponent Erica Newsome, and people look at that photo and say look at her she's so muscular she's so huge and did you see my opponent standing next to me? She's bigger than me! She's fit, she's stacked. If people would stop with the bias and look at us next to each other, put me vs. Kaitlin Young or India Gomes, any of these top tier fighters who work consistently not taking time off. I do this every day in the morning and at night for five years straight, I've only taken three months off in that time for surgery.
WALKER: That's incredible, almost 60 months straight!
FOX: I haven't taken a break – people wonder how I got my purple belt in two and a half years. [It's] because I was sick about it, that's all I did. I went to the championships, pan-am and Florida, like all over. It's all I did for two and a half years was study jiu-jitsu because I love it so much.
WALKER: You do meet the international Olympic committee guidelines to compete as a female – do you think it's childish that people in the sport of MMA are being so judgmental?
FOX: I do believe so, for some reason they seem to think that MMA is in a different category. And I know that it's a different thing, they have boxing and judo in the Olympics, they used to have wrestling, and they're more regulated. I don't understand how some people would be ok with the Olympics and say hey you're a woman and everything's fair there, but if you're here than you're not a woman, make up your mind. You can't have either or, either I'm a woman and I can fight or I'm not and I can't.
WALKER: Has this affected your personal life?
FOX: My friends or at the gym? No. I haven't had one person say anything negative to me, training has been normal and a lot of them have stood up for me. They've always known me as Fallon, when they found out my history, and they thought it made no sense, and don't understand why people have an issue with it.
WALKER: It should really be irrelevant to your career, since you didn't even train until after your surgery correct?
FOX: I have to take a stand on that, but it's like what if I was an MMA fighter who trained before and then got reassignment surgery and did all the things that need to be done? I don't understand how people automatically think that if you were to learn something in a male body it's going to be an advantage. It's just knowledge, it doesn't physically help you. There are guys in this gym learning things that I can't do, my brain knows what to do, but my body won't do it. I can do some of them, but not as well. I don't have the speed, it messes up my coordination.
WALKER: That's all my questions but is there anyone you want to give credit to or just say 'Hi' to?
FOX: First of all anyone who would like to join my Facebook fan page Fallon Fox Official, all my teammates here in the gym, Cyd Ziegler, Polanti Watches, Klinch mouth guards, Brett Ashley my manager, Tussle fight gear, 7AD jewelry and art, and CFA for being so awesome and standing by me. And my daughter, I want to thank her too, she has handled it pretty well, and she's been ok so far so good.
Walker's Note; This was an incredibly enlightening discussion with a woman who very much educated me on what life is like for her as a transgender female. This will be part 1 of a 3 or 4 part series covering Fallon's journey from the revelation to the MMA community that she is transgender, and the medical science behind it with top transgender specialist Dr. Marci Bowers, and some conclusions and facts that you may not know. Stay tuned.
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