Fallon Fox climbed inside the steel cage, past the sign that read “The Beating Will Continue,” and onto a black mat. She followed right jabs with left hooks and kicks flung at imaginary kneecaps, safe, if only for a moment, from the questions and insults and the suffocating fame that descended overnight. Inside the cage, Fox was free. Outside, she was caged. The past month had plunged Fox back into depression, after she became the first openly transgender athlete in mixed martial arts and the most prominent in a professional sport since the tennis player Renée Richards, in the 1970s. Fox did not control the timing of the revelation, which came in a Sports Illustrated article, and could not control the backlash that resulted, the harsh words from Hulk Hogan, the hate spewed by the fighter Matt Mitrione, the confusion voiced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s champion Ronda Rousey.
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