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The attitude of erasure - An op-ed on WMMA rankings by Fallon Fox

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Transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox discusses her uphill battle, including ranking systems that refuse to consider her due to unspecified 'unfair advantages.'

This is a guest column by Fallon Fox.

I'd like to bring to my fans, and the general public's attention, my feelings on a matter I believe is unfair within the MMA industry. I realize that even though it is a matter of opinion which fighter is better than the next by the Unified Women's MMA Ranking system, those opinions could potentially affect opportunities I seek with certain promotions.

I know, I know, "Unified Women's MMA rankings Fallon Fox? Why would you even care about that?"

The rankings are touted as "The only official women's mixed martial arts rankings assembled by divisions and weight class" (as observed on MMA rising). The unified women's rankings are in no way all that promotions consider while determining the best prospects to hire. But, the unified rankings are such a public resource that some promotions may look at their rankings to help gauge what female fighters to hire.

And, it's my opinion that the Unified Women's MMA rankings recent omissions and beliefs against me are an indication, a canary in the coal mine if you will, of greater transphobia within the MMA industry. And if this all feels trivial to you, I encourage you to bear with me for a moment as I connect the dots.

It is my opinion that I am not considered for eligibility by the unified women's MMA collective not because of my record in MMA, not because of suspended or revoked licensure, and not because I have done anything wrong. It is my opinion that I am not considered for eligibility simply because - as Tim Peterson of the United Women's MMA rankings expressed to me the other day, "It is our opinion that you may have an unfair advantage over natural women in combat sports."

What he is saying is that because of my status as a transgender woman, I have some type of advantage over other female competitors. An advantage that the Unified Women's MMA rankings refuse to point out to me. They allude to it just being a thing that is. Peterson also stated that it is an opinion of the Unified Women's MMA ranking committee. This is after commissions have cleared me, after they have concluded that transgender women do not have an unfair advantage and that my competition is fair play.

Peterson has recently told me that there are only two people who create the Unified Women's MMA Rankings. He says it is comprised of just two guys who are very knowledgeable in women's MMA giving their opinion. He claims that it is just him and a man by the name of Rob Sargent creating these list. Sargent is the owner of the website MMA Rising. Promoters can potentially use that self proclaimed, "only OFFICIAL women's mixed martial arts rankings assembled by divisions and weight class" in coming to a conclusion of what female fighter deserves what opportunity and on what basis.

This is all fair game when considering technique, experience, etc. However, my opinion is that it is not fair game when considering matters of discrimination. 'Transgender women' are actual 'women', and have been recognized as actual 'women' in sports since the Supreme Court decision on transgender athlete Renee Richards in the 70's. Here we are, 38 years later, with 38 years more data on transgender anatomy. And at no time since that 1976 Supreme Court decision has anyone come forward with ANY medically recognized "unfair advantages" of transgender women that the vast majority of the medical community can agree upon.

I believe the idea that, "It is our opinion that you may have an unfair advantage over natural women in combat sports," is all within the heads of Tim Peterson and Rob Sargent. Tim and Rob could be highly trained doctors with degrees in medicine who have spent years dealing with transgender women's anatomy - and know the intricacies of the human body far greater than those on commissions, in the medical field, or on Olympic committees who have stood by transgender participation for over 38 years. Not to mention the other professionals and medical experts within the long list of sports transgender women have competed in over these past 38 yeas. But, I highly doubt they have those credentials.

Fox conversation 1

Fox Conversation 2

While the unified women's MMA rankings omission of myself may be a matter of opinion because I am a transgender woman. It is just that - an opinion - and it's my opinion that it is a transphobic one.

I believe that I am not being ranked because - like many minorities have had to deal with in the past - there are some discriminatory, transphobic mindsets within the MMA industry who don't want me ranked. See, if it is known that I actually have skill and that I am a threat to fighters on large promotions, it's harder to say that I don't belong on those promotions.

If they can make it seem like I don't have the skill of fighters on those larger promotions, then they can try to say that I am not worthy to be there and try to influence those larger promotions to not give me a shot. This is becoming increasingly rough for them to do. Especially since I just took out a signed InvictaFC Fighter. And many other signed InvictaFC fighters have worse records than me such as Amanda Bell, who is a great person and I respect her on a personal basis! This is nothing against her --I say if given fights take em', girl!-- but, her record is 2-2-0 and she actually lost to the woman that I just beat. I argue that I am better than both of them.

But, what is even more interesting is that InvictaFC has signed fighters with records that show they have less experience than me. For example, Veronica Rothlenhouser 1-1-0, Faith van Duin 4-1-0, Irene Aldana 4-1-0, Peggy Morgan 2-2-0, River jones 0-0-0 (Never fought professional MMA a day in her natural born life. But, still a signed InvictaFC fighter as of 2013) , Miriam Nakamoto 2-1-0, and Tamikka Brents 2-2-0. Tamikka Brents has previously fought for InvictaFC and was signed again just weeks before I broke her face in the cage. So, it's not logical to say that I don't have enough experience or not a good enough record to be a signed InvictaFC fighter. That just wouldn't make any sense whatsoever.

So, what do I believe the haters have left? Attempted silencing by trying to ignore me, by trying to not rank me, by trying to remove me from the conversation. I believe a tactic by some is to claim that I am this unstoppable monster that is going to literally kill someone in the cage. But, which is it? Not dangerous enough to be ranked? Or too dangerous to compete? It's impossible to be both at the same time.

In my opinion the unified women's MMA rankings are not the only ranking system that wrongfully exclude me. The Bleacher Report rankings made no mention of me this month. I didn't even make the bottom of the list. Know who the bottom of the list was at number 15? Kelly McGill. I realize many of you have never heard of Kelly McGill. That's because she's only 1-0-0. Her ONLY win, her only professional fight, was against a fighter with a losing record. How in the world would it be possible for her to outrank me?

And, number six on the list is Latoya Walker who has a record of 4-0-0. She's had two fights that have gone to decision with losing records. Those aren't KO's, those aren't TKO's, those are long hard fights to the distance with women with losing records. Meanwhile, I am 5-1-0, I've never gone to decision, I have two TKO's, two submissions, and one KO. Two of my fights I've won in the first round in under a minute, three I've won in the first round, one 44 seconds into the second round, and only one of my wins has gone into the third round. Underneath the rankings on Bleacher Report it even says:

"The featherweight division has seen Latoya Walker quietly storm up the rankings. She has been using the regional circuit to belt out fights and rack up the wins. She has become the dark horse of the division.

With people moving up the bracket like Walker, we have seen an exit, but not in a bad way. Charmaine Tweet's second straight fight in the lightweight division has jumped her from the 145-pound rankings, though she must be considered a top lightweight in the world.

Otherwise, featherweight has been "all quiet on the western front." However, with Bellator's inclusion of featherweights in their company, you can expect the pace at which fights are taken to increase."

As if my brutal win over Tamikka Brents did not just happen. As if the internet did not explode when it did. "All quiet on the western front." No. I don't think so. No, I believe they just did not consider me because I am a transgender woman.

As I mentioned, my record is 5-1-0 and all of my wins have come via TKO, KO, or submission. No decisions whatsoever. It's just not logical to think that she ranks higher than me by way of wins or experience.

And I am wondering by what criteria she is ranked and not me. It's my opinion that this seems to be a clear indication that I am being excluded from consideration. It's not like the folks at bleacher report do not know who I am. Bleacher Report has hosted numerous articles about me. And, as John Heinis asks in his Bleacher Report article, 'Fallon Fox responds to a Ronda Rousey's ridiculous bone structure arguments,' "Will Fox ever get a chance to shine inside the Octagon, or are there just too many factors working against her for that to ever happen?"

I ask the same question. Will I ever get the chance to fight for UFC or InvictaFC as is my dream if there are transphobic people trying to lay obstacles in my way?

Because if it's not a matter of how good or bad I do and just a matter of "Is she this type of woman or that one?" - and hiring me as a fighter hinges on me being another type of woman than what I am - I can't do anything to stop that before it happens.

I wonder what ranking system higher promotions such as the UFC, InvictcaFC, and many others may possibly be observing when considering prospects. Not saying they are actually paying attention to the unified women's rankings, bleacher report rankings, or any others that exclude me.  But, I'd just like to point out to everyone--including larger promotions and fans--that one ranking system has admitted to not ranking me because I am a transgender woman, and it's my opinion that others may be doing so also - and that my opinion is that such an action is transphobic. I'd just like to bring that up so that all fans, promoters, and general public are aware of what I gauge is the general attitude of erasure that I see.

I'm available for fights. I'm not stopping anytime soon. There are female fighters that I have talked to behind the scenes who I believe will fight me. And, if some female fighters are too scared...too gutless to fight me, then so be it. They don't have to. That's how it is for every female fighter. As the years go by, if the bigger promotions never have me on their card, if some of the ranking systems never list me, history will show that I at least voiced my opinion on it.

I'll keep plugging away until it becomes the death of me if need be. I AM a woman and a fighter, and a pretty damn good fighter at that! And no matter of transphobia slung my way will EVER change that.