Out mixed-martial artist Jessica Aguilar of Fort Lauderdale says it’s getting better for LGBT athletes.
“We are who we are. It doesn’t matter if we are gay, straight — it doesn’t matter,” Aguilar said on the eve of big fight in Brazil. “I am proud to be a gay athlete. I am proud to represent gay athletes. It’s great to know things are changing for us. It’s equality and it’s amazing. I am happy the changes are coming. Everyone deserves to be happy and have equality.”
Aguilar (19-4) will make her debut for the Ultimate Fighting Championship against fellow 115-pounder Claudia Gadelha (12-1) on Saturday, part of the UFC 190 pay-per-view from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than likely, the winner will get a shot at the straw weight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
For Aguilar, 33, being out has never hurt her career. On the contrary, she has had support from teammates and family.
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“I’ve never had any problems,” said Mexican-born Aguilar. “As a matter of fact, I had the GLADD, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, organization contact me. They’ve been one of my closest supporters. They gave me an award for being an out athlete. It’s been good for me.”
The Broward fighter, who trains in Coconut Creek, is also an ambassador for GLADD and helps at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors.
Aguilar, who trains with the very popular team American Top Team, has won numerous titles including her recent one with the World Series of Fighting promotion. She has fought all over the world, defeating the top fighter in her weight class twice, Japanese athlete Megumi Fujii back in 2012 and 2013.
Several other female mixed-martial artists have also announced they are lesbians, including Liz Carmouche, who was the first woman alongside bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey to headline a UFC pay-per-view.
Aguilar encourages LGBT athletes not to hide their true selves.
“You have to do what you have to do,” she said. “You have to be who you have to be. It’s not about anyone accepting you because they aren’t going to pay your bills. They aren’t going to hold you back from anything. I think now a days it’s much easier for anyone whether you are an athlete or a normal person, but you have to have the courage.”
She finds inspiration in athletes such as transgender Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, who received the Arther Ashe courage Award at this year’s ESPYs
Jenner has quickly become the face of LGBT athletes, promoting awareness and making a difference, Aguilar said.
“She was powerful. She’s done so much. She’s been an Olympian,” she said. “She’s done so much and now she had the courage to be who she wanted to be and be happy. That’s very powerful. Many people are scared to be themselves. She’s happy. Her speech was powerful.”
In mixed martial arts, there has been one out transgender athlete, Fallon Fox.
In 2013, Fox came out publicly after competing against Ericka Newsome in Coral Gables, part of the now-defunct CFA promotion. She later lost to Ashlee Evans Smith and last competed in 2014 in Illinois. There was controversy regarding Fox fighting other women. However the Florida State Boxing Commission allowed her to compete. Still, there are women who won’t compete against Fox including Rousey.
Aguilar said if the state allows it, she will fight anyone.
“If the commission and doctors allow it I’ll fight whoever is in front of me,” she said. “If there was a transgender [artist] in my organization, I’ll fight them if allowed.”