A couple of recent low-blow incidents in women’s MMA have thrown the spotlight on a little-discussed and often-ignored topic: how women fighters cope with groin kicks. In her latest column, recently retired UFC fighter Roxanne Modafferi sheds some light on the matter – and groin protectors.
Are women affected by low blows?
The answer is yes, absolutely, but in varying degrees.
I’ve seen some women take a kick like a football punt and hardly limp afterward. I’ve also seen a kick graze the groin area and the girl goes down. I’ve never personally been hurt badly by a low blow except once in practice.
The pain was intense for five seconds and then subsided. I backed away for a few seconds, but then resumed my sparring round. Afterward, I walked away thinking, “Good thing I’m not a man!”
Apparently, that’s the sentiment of many other female fighters. I’ve heard others joke around as well, expressing gratitude for the lack of family jewels. I haven’t heard of too many instances of painful low blows among my fighter friends who I polled.
The trouble is when fight officials don’t take it seriously enough. Whether it hurts or not, a low blow is a foul to both men and women alike. Referees should be aware of this fact and make sure to take the same action if a girl gets struck in the groin as for a man in a similar situation.
More often than not, a man is given appropriate time to recover. A woman should be given the same. A friend of mine fighting in Titan FC in Florida claims to have been kicked downstairs twice in one fight, and the ref didn’t once call a pause in the action.
What about groin protectors? Since fewer women are affected by low blows compared to men, the demand is less, so supply is less. They exist, but earlier versions were based on boxing and uncomfortable to wear in MMA fights. Thankfully, they have evolved over the years.
When I fought in Japan from 2005 to 2013, women were forced to wear uncomfortable bulky ones in many promotions. The cage-side ref checked us before entering the cage or ring. I believe he asked us to tap on it so he wouldn’t have to touch us.
Female pelvic protectors
I remember being angry and refusing to wear one. Nobody had told me until the week before my fight, and I had no idea where to go get one. I hadn’t trained with it on. I ended up borrowing a teammate’s the day of the fight because they made me, which was kind of awkward.
They were stiff pads, shaped like skinny triangles, with a wide flat part covering from below the belly button tapering off into a narrow strip at the groin. Some are labeled “female pelvic protectors.”
As a female fighter, I’m not worried about being teep-kicked in the uterus. I’m not pregnant and it doesn’t hurt there unless someone is trying to toe-stab me on purpose. To be honest, nobody wants to be encumbered by foam padding over the stomach that gets in the way of bending and inverting when grappling.
Nowadays, there are smaller more comfortable ones are out there. One company is called Lobloo and makes the Lobloo Aeroslim Female Pelvic Protection but nobody talks about them much. They should be talked about, and I believe can help some women.
Groin kicks can change the course of a fight as Yan Xiaonan found out, only too painfully, in her recent loss at UFC 272. The Chinese fighter told The AllStar’s John Hyon Ko that the pain of an accidental groin shot affected her performance in the second and third rounds of the fight. The official in this instance did halt the fight briefly to give Yan some time to recover.
MacKenzie Dern got kicked in the groin for the first time in her recent fight, and didn’t know what to do. “Oh man, this hurts,” she told Ko in a separate interview. “I didn’t even know what to do to make the pain go away. Should I shake? Do I squat down? What do I do? It was the first time for me to go through that. I was surprised.”
So the MMA community should not be dismissive of low blows to women fighters. The answer is not to mandate a groin protector, because some don’t want it. I believe guidance should be given to women athletes on which protector is the best should they choose to use one.
Also, referees and judges should be educated and alerted to recognize that groin shots are painful and damaging just like for males. Females should be given adequate time to recover as best they can, and points should be deducted for repeat offenses.