Alana McLaughlin’s road to her MMA debut has been a study in patience.
The South Carolinian was scheduled to fight fellow debutante Celine Provost of France on Combate Global’s Aug. 6 card, making her the first transgender woman to step on the professional MMA stage since Fallon Fox’s last bout seven years ago.
The COVID pandemic delayed the fight, and history, for one month.
Tonight, the wait ends. The featherweight fight between these two women will be part of a full Combate Global card from Miami to be broadcasted via Paramount Plus beginning at 10:30pm ET.
The 38-year-old steps into competition having battled through growing up young and queer in “the Buckle of the Bible Belt,” as she said during an appearance on The Trans Sporter Room podcast. She also waded through six years in the U.S. Army special forces, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
She began her gender transition upon leaving military service in 2010. A former collegiate athlete, McLaughlin began training last year for the opportunity she seizes tonight.
“I’m 38, so if I’m going to do anything serious competitive athletically, like now is the time,” she told Outsports. “Every fighter’s got an expiration date, and I want to do it while I still can.”
Her opponent is looking at a return to competition. Provost, 35, has been mainly boxing for the last two years after a number of amateur and lower-level professional MMA matches in Europe.
A positive COVID test in July put Provost in quarantine through the originally scheduled fight date. Subsequent tests have come up negative for the fighter.
McLaughlin said Fox, Outsports’ Pioneer Triumph Award Winner earlier this year, was a catalyst in making the fight happen and a mentor in helping her prepare. The trailblazer connected Combate Global to a hungry McLaughlin seeking an opportunity and looking to pick up the torch that Fox first lit in 2013.
Amid the positive push of inclusion in sports this summer, and the continuing attacks on trans rights in this country in the last year, she looks to take the next leap forward and send a message in doing so.
“I want to pick up the mantle that Fallon put down,” McLaughlin said. “Right now, I’m following in Fallon’s footsteps. I’m just another step along the way and it’s my great hope that there are more to follow behind me.
“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. It’s time for trans folks to be in sports and be more normalized.”