Submission Wrestling Federation Announces Trans-Identified Males Will No Longer Be Able To Compete In Women’s Divisions, “No Exceptions”

The Publica Team

The Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Fighting World Federation (ADCC) has announced strict guidelines on participation in its tournaments, with a statement issued yesterday revealing the sporting body will no longer allow men to self-identify into women’s categories.

ADCC was founded by Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of the former leader of the United Arab Emirates, in 1998 and is considered to hold most prestigious submission grappling tournaments in the world. Though most athletes are primarily from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, ADCC tournaments are open to competitors from any grappling style.

While ADCC has competition categories for both men and women, it has now taken a firm stance against gender self-identification.

On October 31, ADCC issued a press release clarifying its formal policy on the participation of transgender athletes, writing: “In an ongoing commitment to fostering a fair and inclusive sporting environment, ADCC has carefully considered the various perspectives and challenges associated with transgender athletes in competitive sports. After thoughtful deliberation ADCC has established a policy that requires athletes to register and compete in the division that aligns with their biological sex.”

After posting the declaration to Instagram, ADCC doubled-down on its position by summarizing the document with three firm points.

“Athletes are required to register and compete in the division corresponding to their biological sex as assigned at birth,” ADCC wrote in the description, with its next point asserting that there would be “no exceptions” to the policy whatsoever.

It continued that any violation or attempt to circumvent the policy would result in suspension or a possible ban on participation.

While ADCC has turned off its social media comments, the policy, posted just hours ago, has wracked up over 5,400 ‘likes’ at the time of this article’s writing.

On X (formerly Twitter), the policy was met with overwhelming support after a copy of the press release was posted by independent outlet Reduxx.

“It looks like sanity is finally starting to assert itself around the world,” one user responded.

“This is great news, though I shouldn’t be this excited to see the words ‘biological sex’ being used by a sporting organization,” another wrote.

Despite the massive wave of support, some trans-identified X users were upset by the decision, with one claiming that ADCC should be ashamed of the move.

“Disgusting transphobic [pieces of shit]. Expected from an organization based in a country with abysmal human rights issues. Ranked 127 out of 165 in the Cato Institutes Human Freedom index. SHAME ON YOU ADCC,” a transgender user said.

While there have been no reported incidents of trans-identified males competing against women in ADCC tournaments, the move appears to have been prompted by the recent controversy in another martial arts association.

As previously reported by The Publica, the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) recently announced it would sex-segregate its competition after a number of female athletes expressed concerns about being matched up with trans-identified male competitors.

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 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.

But despite their claims, the problem of trans-identified males being matched up to fight females persisted and, on October 21, multiple female athletes abandoned a NAGA tournament after discovering males were involved in the women’s divisions.

As a result, some of the divisions had more men competing than women. In one, a trans-identified male took home four women’s medals.

Following the initial outcry in September, ADCC authorities Tom DeBlass and Mo Jassim announced the federation was working towards developing its formal transgender policy.

At the time, DeBlass said that “we are absolutely not, in any circumstance, allowing natural born males to compete against natural born females,” but did not specify if males under estrogenating therapy would similarly be restricted.

Speaking to The Publica, Marshi Smith praised ADCC’s decision. Smith is the co-founder of the International Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), a network and advocacy group comprised of current and former collegiate and professional women athletes, their families and supporters.

“The clear ADCC policy guideline determining category eligibility based on a competitor’s sex, with no exceptions, is a crucial step that every sporting federation, organization, and national governing body must take now,” Smith said.

In recent months, ICONS has tackled the issue of men self-identifying into women’s combat sports, and was first to call attention to the issue of trans-identified males competing against women in NAGA tournaments.

In response to the persistent problem, ICONS recently launched a petition calling on the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation, the United States Jiu-Jitsu Federation, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and all other governing bodies influencing jiu-jitsu policy to establish firm single-sex policies to protect female athletes.

“The safety risks to women in combat sports add tremendous urgency for leaders in the martial arts and combat community. ICONS hopes that every federation will follow ADCC in their commitment to safe and fair sports for their female athletes.”

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