More important: 1st openly gay UFC fighter or 1st female UFC fighter?
In his Twitter mailbag this week, MMAJunkie’s Ben Fowlkes was asked which was the more important aspect of Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche headlining UFC 157 – Ronda Rousey being the first female UFC fighter or Liz Carmouche being the first openly gay UFC fighter?
“They both represent pretty giant leaps for the UFC,” said Fowlkes. “But let’s be honest here and admit that in American sports culture – particularly in contact sports, like MMA – there’s a big difference between attitudes toward lesbian women and attitudes toward gay men. That’s not to say it’s no big deal for Carmouche to be the first openly homosexual fighter to compete in the UFC – it is. But I have a feeling that many of the same fans who have zero problem with seeing a lesbian compete in a UFC main event would not feel quite so comfortable watching a gay man headline a pay-per-view. There just isn’t that same stigma attached to homosexuality in many women’s sports. If anything, a lot of people are ready to assume that a successful female athlete is a lesbian, whereas male athletes still use the mere accusation of homosexuality as a sort of nuclear option against each other.
“That attitude toward male homosexuality in sports is stupid and embarrassing and bigoted, and it has to change. I think it will change, eventually. I really hope we get to a point where we only care how well someone can fight, and not who they’ll be grinding on after too many drinks at the after-party. Sadly, I don’t think we’re there yet. I think MMA in particular still has a lot of fans who hold bigoted attitudes toward gay men, which is a damn shame. Maybe Carmouche can begin to change some minds there. My suspicion is that there are more people willing to get worked up over the fact that two women are taking the main event spot (dry those tears, Dan Henderson fans) than the fact that one of them is a lesbian. Maybe that’s a good thing. Once those people get used to the idea that sexual orientation has nothing to do with how good a fighter someone is, maybe they’ll think it’s no big deal when the UFC has an openly gay male fighter. I hope so.”