A little bit of MMA trivia:
Who is the only fighter to defeat Fallon Fox?
A: Ashlee Evans-Smith.
A native of the San Francisco Bay area, Evans-Smith (6-3 overall, 3-2 UFC) battles Andrea Lee (9-2) tonight on the UFC on ESPN undercard. Making it the perfect time to stroll down memory lane, to the day nearly four years ago when I interviewed Evans-Smith. I asked the Menlo College grad for her thoughts on facing a transgender fighter, her college wrestling career, and women (finally) being prominently featured in the UFC and on MMA’s biggest stages.
My interview with Ashlee Evans-Smith at the Hard Rock casino & hotel in Las Vegas:
On facing and beating transgender fighter Fallon Fox, Evans-Smith said:
“It was a very unique and rare situation. I was already in the tournament; it was for $20,000, it was for a belt, it was my introduction to my pro career.
“I had set this goal for myself that I would win all three fights at the tournament, be 3-0 as a fighter, win all this money and have this belt… and when it came out that she had not told anybody in the first round and then semi-finals that she was transgender… I basically told myself, ‘It doesn’t matter if I have to find her or anyone… I wasn’t going to let anyone stand in the way of the money and the belt and starting my career by winning three fights in a row.”
“I feel like scientifically there’s not enough evidence proof to show bone density advantages… they didn’t even test her testosterone levels in that fight, not at all… I think that’s not fair.
“If you’re in that kind of situation where you have a natural-born woman fighting a transgender, I think it’s only fair to test testosterone levels, and they didn’t do that. So) there’s a lot of reasons why I think it shouldn’t be allowed.
“(But) I think everyone should be allowed to fight, so for now, even though there’s not that many fighters out there, I think there should be a Transgender League, until they make a few more tests or clarify the advantages or disadvantages.”
Why Menlo College?
“This is going to sound completely Meathead, jock status… but I really did go to college to wrestle.
“I was this little punk rocker in high school, had no dreams of being a journalist or even going to college, but I joined the wrestling in high school, fell in love with that and then got recruited to wrestle in college.
“I wanted to wrestle so I went to college and along the way I got a college degree. I found out that I truly love interviewing people, just like this… getting the story, meeting new people. So I wrote for the (college) newspaper for four years and became the editor for two years. I thought that’s what I wanted to do… but when I graduated college… Eugene Jackson, former Strikeforce (fighter) found me.
“I started fighting under him and journalism went out the window. I fell in love with MMA.”
Was there ever a time where you questioned if women would have the same opportunities in big league MMA?
“I never questioned it, not once,” Evans-Smith told me. “Coming up as a female wrestler in a male-dominated sport… but slowly in my high school and college years I got to see the sport grow. So when I got into MMA, it at about the same baby, infant stage as I (experienced) in wrestling… and I knew it would grow like wrestling did. Wrestling was the number one growing sport when I was in high school and college.
“When I got into MMA I just saw a really bright future… I don’t know if it will surpass (the popularity) of men’s (sports)… but I knew this day was coming.”