UPDATE August 3: Fight Postponed due to COVID.
The undercard fight between Alana McLaughlin and French fighter Celine Provost is postponed. According to Combate Global Senior VP for Operations and Communication Mike Afromowitz, Provost tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently in quarantine in France through Aug. 6.
“Provost was double vaccinated but tested positive,” Afromowitz stated. “She says she feels fine with no symptoms but is in quarantine. If she is negative after a second test we plan to move ahead with the fight on September 10th.”
Afromowitz also stated that McLaughlin is currently in a training “bubble” in Miami preparing for the fight, a bubble that Provost would also join in the early September as the projected fight date approaches.
ORIGINAL STORY: Among the mixed martial arts hopefuls preparing themselves at MMA Masters in Coral Gables, Fla., a finishing school of sorts for the sport, toils a 38-year-old fighter-in-waiting named Alana McLaughlin. She’s spent months preparing for a debut to come next week.
The fight will also make history. Mclaughlin will be the first publicly out transgender competitor in a professional MMA match since Fallon Fox’s final fight, a win in September 2014. In an interview on this week’s edition of The Trans Sporter Room podcast, she noted what that fight means to herself and to a community that has seen sports weaponized against it via a national, coordinated legislative and media campaign.
“If we want to see more trans athletes, if we want to see more opportunities for trans kids, we’re going to have to work out way into those spaces and make it happen,” she said. “It’s time for trans folks to be in sports and be more normalized.”
From a personal standpoint she noted that now was the time to take this chance.
“I’m 38, so if I’m going to do anything serious competitive athletically, like now is the time. Every fighter’s got an expiration date, and I want to do it while I still can.”
Some of the urgency comes from growing up young and queer in South Carolina, “right in the buckle of the Bible Belt” as she described it. Struggling with her gender identity within an unaccepting family and largely anti-LGBTQ surrounding, she was bullied and harassed to a breaking point.
“It was all shame back then. I was told by my parents that I made myelf a target and I had to ‘act less feminine’,” she ruefully recalled. “There were periods of my life where I swung on this steady pendulum from hyper-masculine to hyper-feminine and back again.”
High school is where things came to a head, with a twist. McLaughlin was the target of aggression, but she slowly became the aggressor.
“I got into a lot of fights because of people picking on me,” she remembered, “But then I started winning those fights and then people wanted to fight me because I was the person to beat.”
After high school, she started college as she struggled with deeper matters. Her parents suggested she consider conversion therapy. McLaughlin took a different tack — the United States Army.
“It was my last best hope to make a man of myself,” she said. “There was part of me that hoped that I didn’t want to be a girl and I didn’t want to be trans.”
She enlisted in the 18XRAY program, the enlistment to Special Forces pipeline. Ninety percent of those who attempt it wash out. McLaughlin made the cut, which included a tour of duty in Afghanistan. All the while the internal struggle raged and continued through serving out her time and leaving the Army in 2010. That’s when she decided to move ahead and transition, which was a battle beyond what she saw overseas.
“If I did not transition I would be dead,” she said bluntly. “For me, it's a slog. It was a hard fight, an uphill battle. It was like Special Forces training. You don’t know when it ends. They just tell you to go. It’s been a process.”
During her transition she earned a degree in art from North Carolina-Asheville and moved west to Portland, Ore. Combate Global contacted her earlier this year and the countdown began to this coming week.
Fox has been a mentor to her since starting this push toward the mixed martial arts pro ranks. According to McLaughlin, it was the Outsports Pioneer Triumph Award Winner who contacted Combate Global about a rookie in Oregon with potential.
With her first fight looming, McLaughlin is grateful for the support and counsel and noted how Fox made a still-difficult road ahead a little easier.
“Just like Fallon, I fully anticipate that as soon as this stuff hits the news I’ll end up being the new ‘boogieman’,” she said. “In many ways I’m going to have it much easier than Fallon did. Let’s face it, even without me being trans, I’m white. I absolutely believe she was treated differently because of race.”
“I want to pick up the mantle that Fallon put down,” she continued. “Right now, I’m following in Fallon’s footsteps. She was the first! Once again, a Black woman is leading the way. I’m just another step along the way and it’s my great hope that there are more to follow behind me.”
Alana McLaughlin had a lot more to say about her road to this upcoming debut fight, the current state of trans rights and her own story in a compelling interview in this week’s edition of The Trans Sporter Room. Check it out on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts, and many other platforms for Outsports podcasts as well.