Saturday, September 24, 2022

IMMAF Discusses Transgender Inclusion In Combat Sports

A recent meeting of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation focused on the subject of transgender inclusion in combat sports.

Just last weekend, footage from World Class Fight League went viral after Shane Mistretta defeated transgender woman Gita-Marie Figueroa in the first round of a men’s lightweight bout. The video drew a wide range of opinions online, including from current UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya.

Currently, the IMMAF’s stance on the issue is that transgender athletes are not included in any of the categories presently offered by the organization.

“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.”

Panel Members Consider Challenges Of Inclusion

In the interest of trying to make combat sports as inclusive as possible, the organization held the 2022 IMMAF Thought Leadership Event on Transgender Policy Implementation in Combat Sports on September 5 via a virtual panel session.

The panel for the event featured individuals with backgrounds ranging from transgender fighters to important members of the IMMAF, including IMMAF Director of Regulatory Affairs and well-respected MMA referee Marc Goddard.

After independent researcher Cathy Devine concluded a presentation supporting the IMMAF’s current policy, the attendees proceeded to discuss a number of interesting points for the future of transgender athletes in combat sports.

The points discussed included basic issues such as ethics, cultural differences, and the naming of categories so as not to misgender competitors. More specific topics also dealt with the logistics of altering the IMMAF’s current structure to potentially accommodate transgender athletes.

fallon fox
Fallon Fox was the first transgender fighter to make headlines in MMA while competing as a pro from 2012-2014.

Some topics of particular note were consent of the opposing fighter when matched with a transgender opponent, the risk of compromising the sport’s reputation if a severe mismatch were to occur, and the possibility of the IMMAF male category either becoming an “open” category or additional categories being created all together.

Michele Verroken, who led the session as the IMMAF’s Integrity and Anti-Doping Consultant, noted the importance of holding the event for the overall future of combat sports.

“We were keen to hold this event in order to progress our thinking on the subject in combat sports in a meaningful way, since there is currently no public dialogue in this space. It is crucial that stakeholders can discuss the topic openly and pragmatically to find solutions that are practically implementable so that we can provide access to safe and fair combat sports to all.”

What do you think of the points discussed by the IMMAF at their recent meeting on transgender inclusion in combat sports?

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