Not the cheerleader: A female athlete’s journey to being acknowledged in a ‘man’s sport’


MMA fighter and BJJ competitor, Samantha Seff, reveals what it’s prefer to battle in a person’s world. 

Think about taking years to construct up a profession, pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into each single step of the journey, incomes quite a few accolades to your credit score so as to garner respect and reverence on your identify, solely to be completely neglected as a result of you’re a lady.

It is likely to be laborious to image, however sadly, that is typically instances the truth of ladies in any male dominated discipline. I battle with this particularly within the battle and fight sports activities world. Is my tiny body and small stature that a lot much less imposing than any giant man I occur to be standing subsequent to, whether or not he might battle his manner out of a paper bag or not? Apparently, the reply to that query is a powerful sure, and recently, I’ve heard this response to be loud and clear.

My occupation is that of an expert MMA fighter within the atomweight (105 pound) division and an lively Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt competitor and train and run lessons at my gymnasium. I stand at a meager 5 toes tall and stroll round at roughly 120 kilos, outdoors of a battle. I perceive that my demeanor doesn’t essentially scream “savage” however to be utterly neglected is a unique psychological battle I grapple with.

Not too long ago, I flew throughout the nation to Texas to compete within the prestigious worldwide Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) competitions … no-gi pans. I used to be touring alongside my fiancé, a 5’11 chiseled black belt with a burly beard. We each wore comparable gymnasium apparel and had equivalent gymnasium luggage emblazoned with the varsity logos. The quantity of instances he was stopped to ask if he was a fighter was astounding. And each single a kind of instances, I used to be not even acknowledged and even spoken to.

Usually, I couldn’t care much less over the eye he acquired, however anytime I used to be introduced into the dialog, I used to be instantly dismissed or wholeheartedly ignored by the stranger in query.

Why is that? An absence of male genitalia or a face devoid of scruff rendered me incapable of being a seasoned fighter?

Samantha Seff is usually over-looked when touring along with her athlete husband

Certain, my fiancé has reached ranges of esteem in Jiu-Jitsu and received World’s earlier than, however I’ve earned some accolades as effectively in my very own proper. Profitable title belts in two separate divisions and MMA and Jiu-Jitsu awards as effectively. Does my lack of a penis imply that I’m a lot extra incapable in preventing talent? Or maybe it signifies that a scarcity of testicular prowess renders me unable to supply an opinion when watching UFC fights at a public place, the place any armchair fighter who has by no means stepped foot on the mats feels free to share their skewed commentary.

Who would have thought a rattling vagina would maintain me again.

Maybe my tiny lady mind made me unable to affix in on the conversations not solely being had over me. It could have been extra comprehensible had I been sashaying across the airport in a gown and heels and face stuffed with make-up (and even when I used to be, who cares), however the truth that we have been dressed extremely comparable and carrying round equivalent gear ought to have been a clue extra apparent than a blue pawprint on a youngsters Nickelodeon television program that we have been on the very same mission.

To not point out my severely disfigured cauliflower ears was a shining beacon into my every day life, however but, they solely identified those on my associate. I’ve by no means felt extra invisible or extra like a sidekick than I did standing in shadow as we travelled.

Specifically, there was a gentleman waiter on the airport we have been at who was virtually drooling over the footwear of my fiancé and what a scary fighter he have to be. He didn’t even look in my route or try and converse with me, solely lauding and praising the person I used to be with. By pure coincidence, we occurred to run into him once more at 5:30 within the morning whereas within the airport safety line. He virtually stumbled over his toes in a rush to bombard my fiancé with questions on the results of the match. Whereas my fiancé did effectively, he was finally bested by factors within the quarter finals after securing a submission within the earlier spherical. My fiancé then went on to excitedly inform him that I earned a silver in my division and a bronze within the open weight class, however he proceeded to brush us off and switch his again on us, clearly extraordinarily tired of how a lady’s efficiency resulted in a fight sports activities competitors. It was at that very second that I actually felt the unconscious bias due to my gender.

On the finish of the day, I’m not simply the subservient cheerleader there just for ethical help. I’m the f–king quarterback making performs and calling the photographs. To the small-minded folks on the market who refuse to simply accept my position on this world, recover from your self and that little peepee vitality. I’m not making an attempt to beat any dudes on the mat or on the street, but it surely wouldn’t damage to be acknowledged as formidable and educated in my very own proper or a minimum of acknowledge the truth that I exist and have rightfully earned my spot after years of being within the recreation.

Whereas I don’t consider any of these folks have been malicious of their disregard or intent on blatant sexism and misogyny, I implore everybody to perform a little self-reflection on how we painting ourselves and strategy sure subjects.

Higher but, come watch me within the cage or on the mats and be happy to formulate a first-hand opinion, and even to cheer me on.

All the time root for the underdog child.

Samantha Seff is a visitor columnist for FanSided MMA and lately stepped in, on brief discover, to battle Kara Marie Vislosky as an alternate bout for the Invicta Phoenix match. She received and can be writing about that have in her subsequent column.



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