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Celebrating LGBTQ sports history: Fallon Fox is the first transgender MMA fighter

Every day in October we’re looking back at the athletes, coaches and events that made LGBTQ sports history.

Fallon Fox
Fallon Fox

Every day this month, we’re looking back at our pioneers, the mark they left on our community and on the sports world, plus landmark events and stories that show Courage Is Contagious. Today, we’re looking back at 2013 and courageous MMA trailblazer Fallon Fox.

Fallon Fox becomes first trans MMA fighter

Fox became the first out trans MMA fighter ever when she stepped in the octagon and submitted Allanna Jones at CFA 11 in 2013.

By Brian C. Bell

Coming out fully on their own terms and timetable isn’t a luxury shared by every LGBTQ athlete. It’s an unfortunate truth that retired MMA fighter Fallon Fox knows all too well. She was a budding octagon technician with two first round stoppage wins under her belt in March 2013. But the devastating knee she used to finish off Ericka Newsome at CFA 10 quickly gave way to a larger, more life-changing impact.

Fallon Fox
Fallon Fox

On March 5, 2013, three days after defeating Newsome, Fox came out as transgender after a reporter began investigating her gender identity and past. “Maybe someone would guess that I’m trans. Maybe they would know me from my life before I transitioned. I’ve been waiting for that phone call to happen. And Saturday night, it happened.”

The news threw Fox’s ability to fight into question despite being years removed from her transition. More importantly for Fox, it forced her to confront the harsh reality that the people around her that helped build her into a talented fighter might view her differently. “These past six years, people have seen me as a woman, not a transsexual,” she said. “People in the gym, people I train with, it’s been great, it’s been awesome. I’m just a woman to them. I don’t want that to go away. It’s unfortunate that it has to.” Here’s how it began:

Fox didn’t let the vitriol from the MMA community keep her from treading her path through the ranks of women fighters, though. The CFA stood by her as she prepared to compete at CFA 11 in May 2013. Fox rewarded that commitment, along with the loyalty of all that stood by her, by forcing Allanna Jones to submit to a shin choke in the third round. Here’s how it ended:

Fox made history just by stepping into the octagon that night and she made an entire community eat their words by triumphing in her most challenging bout to date. She ended her career with a 5-1 mark, but her legacy is one of bravery and unflinching determination in the face of a sport’s ignorance and hate. It’s no wonder that Outsports’ own Cyd Zeigler continues to highlight Fox as “the bravest athlete in history.”

We’ll have another LGBTQ Sports history story tomorrow and every day through Oct. 31.