It's been a long road for Fallon Fox.
When the MMA fighter came out publicly as transgender on March 5, she became a target for hateful comments by fans, media personalities and other MMA fighters. The legality of her license was called into question, and some medical professionals tried to put her career in jeopardy. Allegations of misconduct have even been aimed at Fox's manager, Brett Atchley.
Despite all the hate and roadblocks thrown at Fox over the last 10 weeks, tonight she will make history when she takes on Allanna Jones in the semifinal of the Championship Fighting Alliance 11 in Coral Gables, Fla. All the attention surrounding Fox has placed the match on national television, broadcast on AXS TV at 9:00 p.m. ET.
When she came to Sports Illustrated's Loretta Hunt and me on March 4 interested in telling her story for fear of being outed, she was scared of the potential reaction, scared of having her story told the right way. When Sports Illustrated ran their first story -- focusing on a controversy about Fox's license application in Florida instead of telling the real story of Fallon Fox -- her concerns were reinforced. Yet even then, she was confident that she'd done everything legally and would ultimately fight again. When Outsports' story ran -- telling of Fox's history and the strength that boils inside of her -- her determination built. As road blocks popped up left and right, she met each one head-on, not backing down.
Fox told me this morning that she's confident about the fight tonight. That's no surprise. After hiding for so many years, she found a support group of other LGBT athletes and sports advocates in whom she found strength. Key players in her MMA career supported her despite a chorus of detractors online. The same confident nature that has built her into a top contender for the CFA11 crown returned. And now she's ready to kick some ass.
The fight tonight will be historic. This is the first time an openly transgender MMA fighter has stepped into the ring and fought professionally in the United States. While we've seen "ladyboys" like Nong Toom in men's fighting overseas, tonight may be the first time we've ever seen an openly trans female fighter spar in a women's competition.
With another 40-second victory tonight, Fox would cement doubts in the heads of her detractors forever. With a mediocre win, those doubts will still persist. And if she loses, some will surely question if she threw the fight to cast aside these same doubters who will never be satisfied.
Some may say it's a no-win situation for her. But to Fox, losing this fight isn't an option. For Fox, Jones will represent all of the hate and negativity that has been spewed about her for nearly three months. That's a fight Fox won't let herself lose.