IMMAF working to evolve its policy for safe inclusion of transgender athletes

The 2022 IMMAF Thought Leadership Event on Transgender Policy Implementation in Combat Sports was held on Monday, September 5. There was a virtual panel discussion for its member federations and invited guests from all combat sports.

In March of 2021, IMMAF has instituted a temporary policy in effect that forbids transgender individuals from competing in the current male and female competitive divisions.

According to the current policy:

“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.”

However, IMMAF is devoted to inclusiveness. A cross-committee task group is working hard to improve its policy and rules regarding the safe participation of transgender athletes at both the recreational and competitive levels.

The IMMAF’s thought leadership session looked at the specific issues that pertain to combat sports, which are contact sports in which the goal is to stop an opponent from continuing and where concussion risk is a concern.

In order to open up sports to transgender athletes competing safely, the conversation took into account both leisure and competitive situations. It also looked at various technological, logistical, legal, medical, and ethical considerations.

Over pre-recorded video, researcher Cathy Devine presented the scientific evidence in favor of the IMMAF’s current stance. This places athlete safety ahead of competition fairness. She also spoke about issues of democracy and human rights that affected all parties.

The discussion brought up a number of issues for the Transgender Inclusion Taskforce of IMMAF to take into account as it moves policy development in this direction.

Michele Verroken commented:

“We were keen to hold this event in order to progress discussions 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.”

Meanwhile trans advocates including MMA veteran Fallon Fox keep advocating that there are no physical advantages.

Fox has been trying to get some clout online.

She recently posted two videos to all of her social platforms. In them she goes on to claim:

 “There’s a lot of talk about the bone density of trans women in relation to sport. Opponents of trans women athletes say our bones are too dense to compete with cis women.”

The graph Fallon Fox shared in her video
The graph Fallon Fox shared in her video

” But did you know that there are racial difference and bone density? Did you know that many cis women have more dense bones and cis men, specifically, many black cisgender women have more dense bones when compared to white cisgender men. “

“So this doesn’t mean that black cisgender women are more of a danger to women’s sports, especially in the sport of MMA, where we are punching and kicking each other. No, they aren’t. And neither are trans women in sports. Bring this up the next time someone says trans women have an advantage in sports because of bone density.”


Upon hearing this our first thought was to fact check it – due to the fact that Fox had previously tried to thwart scientific data in order to make a point regarding Lia Thomas.

What Fox didn’t mention is that the following graph is from a research   outlining that bone density is important because it can help to predict the risk of getting a fracture.

But the other part of the graph is something she conveniently doesn’t mention. While black women aged 45 are less likely to get a fracture than white men of the same – the same cannot be said for her desired opponents – White and black women under 40 who are consistently the most likely to get a fracture (unless you also include Asian statistics).

Previously The HIll’s Ryan Grim shared Transgender Law Center’s  guide to try and spin the issue of trans participation in women’s divisions into a racial issue instead of a gender issue.

Shortly after NCAA winner Lia Thomas compared herself to Jackie Robbins.

Bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture rates vary among women of differing ethnicities. Most reports suggest that BMD is highest in African-Americans, lowest in Asians, and intermediate in Caucasians, yet Asians have lower fracture rates than Caucasians.

Fox also shared another video attempting to prove the same point, this time calling back to height and reach advantages.

“Bone structure. Some people want trans women banned from sports because of bone structure. For instance, they often say trans woman’s shoulders or arms are too wide or too long, giving them a longer reach, a potential advantage and then a name.”


Considering the stance of the advocates it’s hard to imagine IMMAF will reach a conclusion that both sides would be satisfied with.