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Transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox faces licensing problems

Photo: /Photo courtesy of Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox (center) won her professional debut at a King of the Cage event in Idaho last May.

Fallon Fox is bracing herself for controversy, and as the first on-record transgender female fighter in mixed martial arts, she's going to get plenty of it.

On Monday, the 37-year-old Fox (2-0) revealed exclusively to SI.com that she's a transgender fighter -- the first on record, male or female, to compete in the combat sport. Fox won her second professional bout with a 39-second knockout (via knee) last Saturday at Championship Fighting Alliance 10 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Fox, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2006 along with the supplemental hormonal therapy, is scheduled to fight again for the CFA on April 20 in the semifinals of its eight-woman featherweight tournament. However, Fox's license approval is now under investigation with Florida's Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation.

"Our department is currently investigating allegations pertaining to the information provided on [Fox's] application," wrote Sandi Copes Poreda, Director of Communications for the DBPR, which oversees the Florida State Boxing Commission.

On her application, a copy of which was provided to SI.com, Fox stated that she held an MMA combatant's license issued in 2013 by the California State Athletic Commission. However, CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster confirmed that Fox's application for licensure was still under review, though the fighter and her manager, Brett Atchley, believed she had received notice of her licensure in the mail in late February. Licensure secured in other jurisdictions -- particularly in a key state like California -- can weigh heavily on a regulatory body's review of a new applicant's information.

In addition, Fox admits she did not disclose her transgender history, and presumably the pertaining medical documents that would have accompanied her Florida application, because she was not asked to.

In response to inquiries regarding Fox's transgender status or if she was obligated to disclose it, Poreda wrote, "The Florida State Boxing Commission is in the process of updating the rules for professional MMA events and this topic will be included in an upcoming workshop on changes to the administrative rules."

Fox claims her CSAC-issued combatant's license was mailed to her approximately two weeks ago, after she'd spoken with a CSAC representative via phone and submitted an application packet containing the required medical paperwork, as well as a detailed history of her transgender-related surgeries.

CSAC Executive Officer Foster said the state agency had only mailed Fox a receipt for the initial $60 application -- the standard procedure for all athletes who file for licensure consideration. In addition, Foster said that Fox also applied for a national identification card with his office and that approval was also still pending. The card is a second requirement of athletes wishing to compete within most North American jurisdictions, as it connects the fighter's records to a central database those commissions can collectively review. Fox stated she'd been granted the card in Florida. However, the DBPR said this second application was still pending.

"I think it's imperative to remember that the Florida commission allowed this fight, not the California commission," said Foster. "California merely received and is processing the application. We're working on the necessary medical reviews. We simply have an application."

Following his initial review of Fox's packet, Foster said both he and the CSAC's medical review board would require additional documentation from the athlete during its forthcoming vetting process, though he said Fox would be afforded the same opportunity to provide this information as any other applicant.

According to Foster, the CSAC did not receive any inquiries from the Florida regulatory body regarding Fox's purported licensure in California. Foster was initially unaware of Fox's first communication with the CSAC office through another official.

"CSAC staff handled this without notifying me of the unusual circumstances," said Foster. "Because this is the first of its kind situation, this matter should have been referred to me for review under the commission's medical review panel, which ultimately makes a decision in how to proceed in a case like this. I'm taking appropriate actions to make sure this protocol is followed next time."

For her pro debut in May 2012, Fox fought in Idaho for the King of the Cage promotion, which franchises its brand worldwide to multiple, non-affiliated promoters at any given time. Fox said the bout, which she won by first-round stoppage, took place on sovereign land, which is exempt from state oversight. Fox said she was only required to submit bloodwork and take a pregnancy test, and was unsure if she'd done so under the promotion itself or an overseeing body assigned by the Coeur D'Alene Native American Tribe. Fox's three previous amateur bouts, all won by first-round submission, were held in Illinois, where she is a resident.

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