The world’s largest submission grappling association has abandoned its gender self-identification policy after a damning report was released yesterday revealing that only males competed in a women’s division at a recent tournament.
The North American Grappling Association (NAGA) is the largest submission grappling association in the world, and facilitates standards and tournaments in various martial arts. But in a recent development, NAGA, which has been offering competition categories for both men and women since its establishment in 1995, has found itself embroiled in controversy.
Issues first arose after it was discovered that multiple female athletes were pitted against males who identify as transgender.
The problem first received widespread attention in September after a female Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete revealed that she had not been informed she would be competing against a male. Taelor Moore posted a clip of her fight against James “Alice” McPike on her Instagram, noting that there was a 65lbs weight difference between them.
Following the Instagram post going viral, NAGA quickly issued a statement clarifying its policies on the inclusion of trans-identified males in the women’s category, and insisting that women were meant to be informed and given the option to decline the fight if their competitor was a trans-identified male.
“NAGA does not require biological women to compete against transgender women. Instead, we give the choice to the biological women and if they decline, they compete in a division only with other biological women,” the statement read.
But despite the statement, the problem of trans-identified males being matched up to fight females persisted.
According to an exclusive report released by independent outlet Reduxx yesterday, at a recent tournament in Marietta, Georgia, there were more males than females in some of the women’s divisions.
Speaking to Reduxx, professional martial artist Jayden Alexander revealed that she self-excluded from the tournament after realizing she would have to fight a male. But Alexander was reportedly not the only woman who abandoned the competition, with Reduxx noting that several others had also dropped out.
Marshi Smith, the co-founder of Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), also noted that a female grappler was “blindsided” into fighting not one, but two trans-identified males during the tournament.
Danielle Lenane, one of the only females involved in the competition, was made to fight Cordelia Gregory and Corissa Griffith. Following the fight, Lenane asked for her record to be wiped clean of any indication she had fought either one of the men.
In the Women’s No-Gi fight for the 160-169lbs weight class, only Griffith and Gregory participated and took home medals. Griffith in particular took home four gold medals during the tournament.
On social media, the Reduxx report was met with widespread backlash, including from celebrities and top athletes.
Comedian and actor Rob Schneider reposted the Reduxx article, writing “can you blame the women for dropping out…? It’s beyond ridiculous.”
Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, similarly reacted to the report, sarcastically remarking that the problem of males identifying into women’s sports appeared to be more wide-spread than trans activists often make it seem.
In wake of the massive backlash, NAGA released a statement today on their Instagram announcing that they would be fully revising their policies.
“We, as an organization, strive to ensure fairness, inclusivity, and respect fora ll competitors within our events. With regards to transgender females competing in NAGA, the following policy shall be implemented … We will have divisions for only [biological] females. Transgender females will not be entered into these divisions.”
The statement continues that trans-identified males, mistakenly referred to as “transgender females” by the organization, would be required to compete in the men’s divisions.
The hasty policy revision was met with resounding excitement on social media, with many women’s rights advocates cheering on the result.
Star athlete Riley Gaines shared the news on her X (formerly Twitter) account, writing: “It took NAGA only 21 hours after this exclusive piece was published exposing their discriminatory policies before they changed them to prioritize fairness and protect women. The effectiveness of boycotts and using your voice is real!”
Former elite marathon runner Mara Yamauchi also praised the news, calling it a “fantastic” step for the female athletes.
“Sports bodies should be making policy based on fairness, facts, and material reality. It shouldn’t take critical press articles but it does.”