Fox, 37, had been competing as a woman in the featherweight division and had not previously disclosed his birth sex. He was forced to reveal his secret to Sports Illustrated magazine after a journalist with knowledge of his background questioned him after winning a quarterfinal fight against Ericka Newsome. The fight lasted only 39 seconds and ended when Fox delivered a blow to Newsome’s head with his knee, knocking her out.
Fox took hormones and had surgery to change his appearance to that of a woman in 2006. On his March 1 application for a Florida fighting license, he marked himself “female” and did not disclose his masculine origins. He also claimed to have a California fighting license. Typically, having a license in another state makes the application process faster and smoother. However, California officials said they only received an application from Fox, and it has not yet been approved.
Fox was scheduled to fight a woman April 20, but that fight has been postponed pending the outcome of the investigation into his licensing.
Fox’s agent Brett Atchley said his client is upset by media coverage painting him as having calculated his sex change to achieve success in sports. “The bone of contention for Fallon seems to be people characterizing her as dishonest and manipulating, that she somehow manifested her destiny by saying, ‘I’m going to have this operation and then I’m going to be a fighter and world champion,’” Atchley said.
Fox is also reportedly upset by the backlash from his would-be competitors in the ring, all of whom are women weighing between 135 and 145 pounds.
Championship Fighting Alliance CEO Jorge De La Noval said women fighters have been calling him to complain. “It has gotten to the point where some are saying, ‘I’m fighting her in the next round. Am I fighting a male or female? What’s the deal?’” he said. “I told them the same thing. I'm not pulling her from the tournament. She’s a female fighter and if she goes all the way, she’s going to be my champion and I’m very proud of her. It’s just a matter of time before we see how this plays out.”
De La Noval was previously unaware that Fox was born a man, but he said he hopes the FSBC allows him to return to the ring as a woman.
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“She has a license by the Florida State Boxing Commission as a female; she’s going to stay in the tournament,” De La Noval told ESPN.com. “She’s a female fighter to us. And we’re standing behind her when it comes to that. “We're not going to kick her out of the tournament. She’s going to continue fighting for CFA.”
Added De La Noval, “It wouldn't be fair to cut her out of the tournament now. There’s a lot of money on the line for her that she needs. She’s a great fighter.”
De La Noval said he couldn’t imagine the FSBC revoking Fox’s license.
“As a promoter, obviously everyone who comes into my office, what I see is a fighter,” De La Noval said. “I don't ask anyone what their sexual preference is. What they do with their personal life is not my business. She’s a sweet girl…And where we stand as a company is that [he]’s a female. She has an Illinois driver's license [as a female]. She’s a female and she’s definitely a fighter. I just don’t see how anybody can revoke her license.”
FSBC officials are holding rules workshops next week, at which they plan to address the issue of transgender fighters.
“The commission is in the process of updating its rules for professional MMA events, and this particular topic will be part of our workshops on March 15,” FSBC spokeswoman Sandi Copes Poreda said. “We'll have additional information about the rules workshops after it’s completed.”
The issue of transgender athletes has been receiving increasing attention as gender reassignment surgery becomes more common. In California, controversy arose when a 6’8”, 50 year-old man played college basketball on a women’s team shortly after his sex-change surgery.
South African Olympic runner Caster Semenya received international attention when the International Association of Athletics Federation had her submit to gender testing, suspecting she may have been lying about her sex. The results of that testing were never released, but the IAAF cleared her to return to competition in 2010.