The new PFL MMA (Professional Fighter’s League) women’s lightweight champion suddenly finds herself at the pinnacle of her career. But the increased spotlight has had some immediate downsides. Although Larissa Pacheco scored a million dollars in prize money and her biggest win to date when she defeated Kayla Harrison last Friday, she found herself on the receiving end of some ugly, homophobic messages from fans as a result.
Pacheco has been out and proud about her sexual identity for years, but appears to have seen a notable uptick in hateful comments on her Instagram account since her big win.
In an interview with Combate, the Brazilian explained that even though she tries not to care about prejudice, what bothers her the most is not being recognized as a skilled martial artist. The way Pacheco sees it, fans are only using her sexuality as a way to dismiss her abilities as an athlete.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Pacheco admitted. “It gets to a point where it really pisses you off. I don’t care. I never did. It doesn’t affect my life in any way, but it’s ridiculous to see that people go out of their way on social media to undermine your work. I was more upset that they undermined my abilities as an athlete than my appearance. I couldn’t care less. I’m comfortable with myself. They do that to bother you. The worst part is that it comes from other Brazilians, people who should be rooting for us to win. They should be able to see my fighting abilities and not just my appearance or sexual orientation,”
“It’s not just in the LGBT community,” Larissa said. “I think that prejudice just shows how evil and dirty people are. All we want is our space. I don’t want to be known for my sexual orientation. I want to be known for my qualities. We need to stop judging people on that. We have to hire people based on their abilities to do the work with quality, and I do. I want be recognized for that. What I do outside of that is nobody’s business but my own.”
Pacheco (19-4) became the ’PFL 2022’ champion by defeating Olena Kolesnyk, Zamzagul Fayzallanova and the aforementioned Harrison in the finale. The 28-year-old’s last defeat took place in December 2019, when she dropped a unanimous decision to Harrison in that year’s final round of the women’s lightweight tournament.