Transgender MMA fighter who used to be in US Army special forces wins debut

The second openly transgender MMA fighter in the US has won her debut match – reigniting the debate over trans women in sports.

Alana McLaughlin, 38, won her first professional fight in the Combate Global prelims Friday against Celine Provost, ending the match with a rear-naked choke 3 minutes and 32 seconds into the second round. 

McLaughlin, from South Carolina, began her transition in 2010 after spending six years in the US Army special forces. 

Her victory prompted backlash from a number of people who said it was unfair for a trans woman to compete against a cis-gendered 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. Y’all need to show Céline Provost some respect and take your concern trolling elsewhere.’ McLaughlin responded on Twitter, adding.

‘Transphobes are just making my block hand stronger.’  

She is the second openly transgender athlete to fight MMA professionally in the US, following Fallon Fox who made history in 2012 with her debut, and who retired in 2014. 

‘I want to pick up the mantle that Fallon put down,’ she told Outsports

With her bout Friday, McLaughin became the second openly transgender female athlete to compete professionally in MMA in the US

McLaughlin went up against Celine Provost for her debut match in the Combate Global prelims

McLaughlin defeated Provost in the second round with a rear naked chokehold 

McLaughlin, born Ryan, began her transition in 2010 after leaving the US Army Special Forces

‘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, she told the outlet, and 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],’ she 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.’

McLaughlin had been training for more than a year in preparation for the bout, and said finding an opponent was a ‘nightmare.’

‘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. 

Many on social media commented on the match, saying it was unfair for transgender women to compete against other women in sports

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 Canadian feminist website Feminist Current.

Many agreed. 

‘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 went so far as to say the match constituted male-on-female violence 

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.’ 

Others, however, were more supportive of McLaughlin 

Amid the backlash McLaughlin told her fans that it was not necessary to defend her. 

‘Don’t feel obligated to defend me against transphobes online,’ she 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 her participation 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.’ 

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