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. My gym is where I box and teach muay Thai, my students are there, but I always wanted to fight full time. 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. I felt quite the contrary. 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. It was a chance that would present itself for me. And think about it, there are no [MMA fighters] to cheer for in the LGBT community. They don’t have anyone to represent them in any 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 saying bad things about you, but because I train hard, I am always respected.” he stated. “Some people, including straight men, don’t like to train with me because I’m strong.
” People told me that they have heard people say that they won’t train under me because they fear I would beat them up and ruin 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 with a family member and he confirmed to me that he had left because he was too embarrassed to lose to a gay man.” Duarte stated. I thought it was funny that he had planned a trip, or something, but then Duarte confirmed that he was embarrassed by losing to a homosexual 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. Do you feel mad if your wife is doing jiu jitsu with a man? 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. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s not your job to pay the bills. You are the one who puts in the effort. Our sexuality has nothing to do with this.”