How Many Transgender MMA Fighters Are There? (Is It Fair?)

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Do you have a question about transgender MMA fighters?

In this article, we’ll look at how many transgender MMA fighters there are, what the current transgender MMA policy is, whether transgender MMA fighters have an unfair advantage, and whether the UFC allows transgender MMA fighters.

How Many Transgender MMA Fighters Are There?

In August 2023, there have been 2 transgender MMA fighters to have competed in professional MMA promotions, Fallon Fox and Alana McLaughlin.

Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox was the first transgender MMA fighter. Born in Ohio in 1975 as a male, Fallon Fox had gender reassignment surgery in 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand.

After the surgery, Fallon Fox started training in mixed martial arts, eventually making her amateur debut in 2011. She then made her professional MMA debut for KOTC in 2012.

Fallon Fox beat her first two female opponents via TKO and KO, without making it known she was a transgender MMA fighter. Her opponents believed they were fighting a female-born fighter.

Regardless, she won her next fight but lost her fourth against Ashlee Evans-Smith in 2013, a bantamweight in the UFC since 2014. This loss quietened the controversy surrounding transgender MMA fighters. 

However, it was back in full force just two fights later, after Fallon Fox broke the skull of Tamikka Brents during her first-round TKO finish at CCCW. Tamikka Brents also suffered a concussion and required multiple stitches in her head.

Speaking to WhoaTV after the bout, she said, “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night.

I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right. 

Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch.”

Alana McLaughlin

Alana McLaughlin was born a male in South Carolina in 1983 and had gender reassignment surgery in 2016.

A former medical sergeant in the U.S. Army Special Forces between 2003 and 2009, Alana McLaughlin made her professional MMA debut for Combata Global in 2021.

Before fighting, she passed the medical tests to ensure she had suitable hormone levels to compete in women’s MMA. This is a testosterone level of below 10 nmol/L for all transgender MMA athletes, as set by the IOC.

She fought Celine Provost and won via rear-naked choke in the 2nd round. During her walk to the cage and after the fight, Alana wore a t-shirt that read, ‘End Trans Genocide’.

Like Fallon Fox, Alana McLaughlin’s fight caused widespread controversy with many voicing their opinions online.

She took to Instagram to defend herself against people calling her a cheater, but at the time of writing (August 2023), Alana McLaughlin hasn’t competed again.

Both Fallon Fox and Alana McLaughlin have seemingly ended their professional MMA career due to the controversy surrounding their fights. But did they have an advantage over their female counterparts?

What Is the Current Transgender MMA Policy?

The current transgender MMA policy was set forth in 2013 by the Association of Boxing Commissions Medical Committee

It is as follows:


  • Individuals undergoing sex reassignment PRIOR to puberty should be regarded as females.
  • Individuals undergoing sex reassignment AFTER puberty should be eligible for participation in female competition under the following conditions:

1. Surgical anatomical changes have been completed including gonadectomy and external genitalia

2. Hormone therapy appropriate for the assigned sex (female) for a MINIMUM of TWO years AFTER gonadectomy.

3. A letter from a board-certified physician responsible for the care of the athlete should be submitted to the athletic commission being petitioned for licensure and to the ABC Medical Review Board.

4. TUEs will not be granted for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

5. The transsexual competitor (as with all competitors) should be subject to random drug testing.

In 2023, State Athletic Commissions in the US can choose to follow these guidelines when determining whether to grant a transgender MMA fighter a license, but they don’t have to.

Under the California Code of Regulations, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) permits Transgender Female Athletes (Male to Female) under the following conditions:

‘(a) Transgender female (male to female) athletes who are not undergoing hormone therapy and without gonadectomy are eligible for licensure and participation in men’s events.

(b) Transgender female athletes shall be eligible for licensure and participation in women’s competitions if the commission approves the athlete’s Application.’

Most of the other State Athletic Commissions haven’t adopted the ABC guidelines and instead evaluate transgender fighters on a case-by-case basis.

Do Transgender MMA Fighters Have An Unfair Advantage?

In 2023, there isn’t conclusive scientific evidence saying transgender MMA fighters do or don’t have an unfair advantage. There’s simply scientific evidence supporting the case for either side.

However, without needing scientific evidence, we know male athletes on average have advantages over female athletes.

What we need to know is whether males who go through gender reassignment surgery maintain these advantages.

So, with this in mind, let’s look at the rules and regulations concerning transgender MMA fighting, as they’re set by people whose job it is to read the science and make an informed decision.

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines stated male to female transgender athletes must have:

  • Total testosterone level in serum below 10 nmol/L for 12 months before first competing

In 2021, the IOC released the Framework on Fairness, Inclusion, and Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations.

Along with the framework, the IOC allowed governing bodies of individual sports to create their own rules. This means the rules concerning transgender MMA fighters are unique to other sports.

Currently, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) has had a provisional policy in place since 16th March 2021.

The policy doesn’t allow transgender MMA fighters to compete in either male or female divisions on a safety basis.

About its policy, IMMAF stated, “The scientific evidence currently available is compelling enough to prevent Transgender athletes from competing at IMMAF Competitions because the risks of injury and unfair competition are too great. 

The scientific evidence in relation to the effects of testosterone suppression treatment shows that those effects are not significant enough for IMMAF to permit Transgender athletes to compete at IMMAF Competitions based on testosterone suppression.”

Furthermore, in 2022, the World Boxing Council gave a guideline concerning transgender athletes in professional combat sports (MMA, boxing, etc).

The WBC stated there isn’t a consensus on whether a bout between a transgender woman and a cisgender woman is fair.

The IOC’s testosterone metric of less than 10 nanomoles per liter isn’t enough to justify fairness in transgender MMA fights.

They believe a transgender woman may retain advantages in musculature and bone structure due to having gone through male puberty, despite having gone through hormone therapy.

Standing by its position, the WBC has announced plans to create a separate transgender boxing category sometime in 2023.

This is all supported by MMA’s national licensing body, the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports, which looked at whether transgender athletes should compete in combat sports.

The ABC concluded: ‘It needs to be debated, scientifically studied, and decided purely on scientific and medical grounds based on concrete evidence-based medicine with the foremost goal of protecting the health and safety of all combatants.

So, as it stands, it must be concluded female transgender MMA fighters have an unfair advantage over cisgender women until scientifically proven otherwise.

Because of this, transgender MMA fights shouldn’t take place over concerns such as brain injury.

Does the UFC Allow Transgender MMA Fighters?

The UFC allows transgender MMA fighters, but you can bet your life we’ll never see a transgender UFC fighter.

While the UFC has never publicly disclosed its policy on transgender fighters, in 2019, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson answered what he knew via Quora.

He said the UFC allows transgender MMA fighters if they meet the following 4 conditions.

  1. The State Athletic Commission must approve of their physical status
  2. Their testosterone levels are strictly monitored
  3. Hormonal proportions are closely inspected throughout fight week
  4. Their muscle mass and BMI must be within the upper limit prescribed for women.

For number 2, while he never mentioned the levels, it’s likely to be the IOC’s testosterone level in serum below 10 nmol/L for 12 months before first competing.

For number 4, good luck finding any numbers because there aren’t any.

As mentioned above, while the UFC can’t openly oppose transgender MMA fighters because of the huge backlash it’d receive, the promotion doesn’t want transgender UFC fighters.

In the documentary ‘Game Face’, which focuses on the challenges transgender athletes face, Dana White said, “Bone structure is different, hands are bigger, jaw is bigger, everything is bigger. I don’t believe in it. I don’t think someone who used to be a man and became a woman should be able to fight a woman.”

Also, the UFC hasn’t disclosed any policy regarding transgender MMA fighters, and the information from Stephen Wonderboy is very loose, without figures, and open to many interpretations.

Wonderboy then goes on to claim transgender MMA fighters fail at least one of the above stipulations.

Therefore, it’s easy to see why there’s never been a transgender UFC fighter and there never will be. It’s a very sensitive situation and one the UFC wants to distance itself from.

Plus, while the UFC can have the final say of who it offers a contract to, it’s the State Athletic Commissions sanctioning MMA events that determine transgender MMA policy in each US State.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘How many transgender MMA fighters are there?’

There are currently zero transgender MMA fighters competing, but there have been 2 transgender MMA fighters, Fallon Fox and Alana McLaughlin.

Whether transgender MMA fighters have an unfair advantage is a polarizing subject still awaiting further research for a conclusive answer.

However, as it stands in 2023, it’s safe to say transgender MMA fighters have an unfair advantage and that it’s not safe for male-born fighters who’ve transitioned to females to compete against females.

While they may have testosterone levels of less than 10 nanomoles per liter at the time of testing, science is yet to refute the advantages a female transgender athlete may have such as increased bone density and musculature due to having gone through male puberty.

Not only this, but there are simply too many variables to have a complete answer, such as the technical, practical, legal, medical, and ethical requirements to ensure transgender MMA fighters are competing on a level playing field.

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