Ex-U.S Army Special Forces Soldier Wins Debut in WOMEN'S MMA Fight
Trans fighter destroys female competitor with rear-naked choke to seal debut victory
A former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier has sealed a debut victory in mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting by "identifying" as female and competing against women.
38-year-old Alana McLaughlin is the second openly transgender MMA fighter in the US to take an easy win in their debut match - reigniting the debate over trans athletes in sports.
Competing in the Combate Global prelims Friday against seasoned fighter Celine Provost was McLaughlin's first professional fight.
After a savage display, McLaughlin won the match just 3 minutes and 32 seconds into the second round, ending the fight with a brutal rear-naked choke.
McLaughlin, from South Carolina, began "transitioning" into a "woman" in 2010 after spending six years in the elite U.S. Army Special Forces.
The victory has prompted a widespread backlash from people who argue that it is unfair for a biological make to compete against a female athlete in the sport.
"I'm getting a lot of variations of the same nasty messages calling me a cheater like I didn't just get beat on for a round and a half," McLaughlin responded on Twitter
"Y'all need to show Céline Provost some respect and take your concern trolling elsewhere.
"Transphobes are just making my block hand stronger."
McLaughlin is the second openly transgender athlete to fight MMA professionally in the US, following Fallon Fox who made history in a 2012 debut, retiring in 2014.
"I want to pick up the mantle that Fallon put down," McLaughlin told Outsports.
"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."
Fox was watching Friday's match ringside, ESPN reported.
McLaughlin had been training for more than a year in preparation for the bout.
It was scheduled originally for August but postponed after Provost tested positive for the coronavirus.
McLaughlin, born Ryan, cleared a hormone panel issued by the Florida State Boxing Commission but noted that it was a "nightmare" finding an opponent for the fight.
"I have nothing but respect for [Provost]," the ex-elite soldier told ESPN.
Many on social media, however, said McLaughlin's win was an example of an unfair push to include trans women in sports.
"Alana McLaughlin transitioned 5 years ago, which means that 'she' lived 33 years of her life as a man," wrote combat sports podcaster Angel David Castro.
"Tonight McLaughlin fought and beat a biological woman... what a shock."
MMA commentator @SafeBetMMA wrote: "I think people can identify with whatever they like but I don't think this has a place in combat sports.
"Y'all think this is ok and empowering to transgenders?"
"I respect trans rights; however, how is this fair, seriously?" wrote another commentator on Twitter.
"I respect trans rights all day but this is an unfair advantage," posted another.
"Alternative headline: 'Man cheats'," posted Jessica O'Donnell, a writer for the Blaze in the replies to a New York Post article about the win.
Others in feminist circles regarded the bout as an example of abuse.
"Male violence against women as a public sport? #NoThankYou," posted Genevieve Gluck, a contributor to the Canadian feminist website Feminist Current.
"Wow. I did not foresee the day we applauded men beating women," one response read.
"What a stunningly brave new world."
"This is disgusting and dangerous," another posted.
Others, however, were more congratulatory.
"You did AMAZING," tweeted Young Journalism Initiative reporter Jessica Durling.
"They're just mad sports aren't just for cis people."
"I support you so much and hope you don’t take the horrible bigoted comments to heart. You’re wonderful," wrote another Twitter user.
"You both did amazing out there!" another reacted.
"You’re amazing, don’t let the hate get you down," replied another.
"Athletes like you make history.
"We’ll look back at the way people are reacting to you one day the same way we look back at those who wanted to ban integrated sports."
Amid the backlash, McLaughlin told fans that it was not necessary to defend the fight.
"Don't feel obligated to defend me against transphobes online," the trained killer tweeted.
"We all know they're not arguing in good faith and your energy is better spent elsewhere."
Anticipating the pushback, McLaughlin told Outsports in the leadup to the match that the MMA debut was another step in having more trans people participate and be visible in sports.
"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," she said.
"It’s time for trans folks to be in sports and be more normalized."