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The Many Colors of the Mixed Martial Arts Rainbow

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A reader writes:

I think this is the first time I’ve seen anyone bring up the topic of homophobia and misogyny, implicit or explicit, in the major MMA media (at least, that which I consume).  I identify both as a feminist and a queer ally and have found it difficult to defend the sport at times when it has consistently chosen a language and a posture that keeps women at arm’s length and alienates the queer community.

I’ve wrestled for 4 years in a program that produced some top HS female wrestlers in the country and the homophobia was present there.  And even very recently, in an otherwise open-minded gym, I hear the comments and can’t bring myself to say very much about it.  My former roommate and good friend of mine, openly gay, has become a very huge fan of the sport through living with me, to the point where he’s considering training with me.  He won’t come with me to see the Strikeforce show in San Jose, not because he fears for his safety, but because of a general sense of feeling unwelcome.

I was surprised to see such commentary even posted online, and I probably wasn’t the only one.  I think that says a lot about how people (or at least I) perceive the world of combative sports .  I have always meant to write something about these issues, but I always got the impression that the sound would fall on deaf ears.

I’m grateful for everything you’ve said and posted.  I’m grateful for the unwavering stance you’ve taken in your comments.  I’m unendingly grateful for the understanding you have of the issue (that these words are never meaningless, and just because one grows up with it doesn’t make it less homophobic or misogynistic), and your willingness to explain.

Being mainstream means being integrationist and communal, and the reality is that MMA is for gays and women, too. Whether or not you like Dana White (I do) and whether or not you think he should be forced to apologize (I don't) is irrelevant. The fact remains: It's not pragmatic for White to act this way given his vaunted position and the gay and female members of the MMA community deserve an equal seat at the table. Nothing more, nothing less.

UPDATE by Kid Nate: Maggie Hendricks from Yahoo's Cagewriter add this:

Since I've started with Cage Writer, I have been worried from time to time that I would not be welcome at fights or in gyms. After all, MMA is definitely a man's world. However, I've never felt unwelcome, never felt like I was given an unfair shake, never felt like I didn't belong. But after seeing the president of the corporation that I spend much of my days writing about call another female member of the MMA media a "dumb b----," I instantly become unwelcome in this world. Funny what a few little words can do.

For those who wonder why we're posting on this story, here's the deal: we want MMA to become a truly popular sport so it can attract the best athletes so we can see the best fights possible. Dana's blunder set us back. He's still done as much for the sport as any living human (if not 500) but this was a serious misstep for an executive of a sport that wants to be taken seriously in popular culture and corporate America.