Washington Duarte became the first openly gay man to come out during his MMA career in Brazil, and he hopes it inspires others to follow his steps in the future.
A bantamweight fighter out of Laranjal do Jari, Brazil, “Golden Princess” is scheduled to return for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Set to defend his Macaco Fighter title in his hometown against Rodrigo “Bad Boy” Melonio on Saturday, Duarte expects his career to take off in 2022, especially after popular Brazilian TV show Fantastico aired a story about him.
“I’m getting more opportunities now,” said Duarte, who says his actual MMA record is 30-3 and websites like Sherdog and Tapology are missing most of those wins. “I have my gym where I teach muay Thai and boxing, I have my students, but all I’ve ever wanted was to be a full-time fighter. It’s time to focus on that.”
Duarte isn’t the first MMA fighter to come out as gay in Brazil. Back in 2013, six years after his final bout, former IVC and King of the Cage fighter Jefferson Silva announced on social media that he had married a man.
With over a decade in experience in MMA, Duarte said he was always known as a gay fighter in his home of Amapa, including by UFC veteran and training partner Tiago Trator.
“I was always myself when I started fighting 12 years ago,” he told MMA Fighting. “Many people said, ‘Oh, he’s homosexual,’ but that doesn’t matter. I was always treated well wherever I went. I never felt rejected. Quite the opposite, really. Tiago Trator and coach Ricardo Fonseca always stood by my side.”
“Tiago said he’s never seen a gay fighter before anywhere he went, and I always insist that there are many gay men out there [in MMA], but they don’t have the courage to come out. I knew one day the opportunity would come for me. And think about it, there are no [MMA fighters] to cheer for in the LGBT community. There’s no one representing them in a fight. I told him I’d do that, I want that LGBT flag.”
Duarte said the MMA world is “very” homophobic, and he’s been through many situations where straight men simply refused to fight or even train with him.
“There will always be people talking crap about you behind your back, but I was always respected everywhere I went, especially because I go hard in training,” he said. “Some people, including straight men, don’t like to train with me because I’m strong.
“People told me they’ve heard others say they wouldn’t train with me because if I beat them up, it would mess up their heads. Especially in fights. Many promotions said people simply wouldn’t fight me, that they would leave them if they ever lost to me.”
In fact, Duarte said one local fighter left Laranjal do Jari and never went back after getting knocked out by him in a MMA bout many years ago.
“I spoke to a member of his family, and he confirmed that’s why he left,” Duarte said. “I thought it was a joke, that he already had a trip planned or whatever, but then he confirmed to me that he was too embarrassed to lose to a gay man.”
“I’m getting a lot of messages of support and people thanking me, saying they feel represented now,” he continued. “We don’t need anything more than respect. We don’t go to the gym to joke around. We leave intimacy for being closed doors. If you train jiu-jitsu and see your wife rolling with a man and getting to certain positions, do you get mad? Why would it make any difference if it’s a gay man training with a guy?
“People I know tell me they are afraid to come out because of how others might react. You don’t have to be afraid of who you are. You pay your bills, you’re the one putting in the work. Our sexuality has nothing to do with this.”
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