Jeff Molina never expected to have to explain intimate details of his personal life on a public forum. But that decision was callously taken away from him this past week.
This past Friday, the UFC flyweight prospect posted a statement to social media coming out as bisexual after an intimate video of him with another man was posted online without his consent. Molina’s statement made him the first male UFC fighter to openly be part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In an interview Wednesday on The MMA Hour, Molina opened up about his experience and the emotional roller-coaster of having his agency stripped away in such a personal way. Molina said multiple people direct-messaged him after the video’s initial posting and removal demanding anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 in blackmail payments or they would re-post it again. He said he worked diligently to get the video removed from the internet, and initially was regretful of his decision to post his statement, if only out of fear that it brought more attention to a matter than was never intended for public eyes.
However, those feelings of regret regarding his statement eventually changed.
“A couple hours went by and I got an influx of support,” Molina said. “It was heartwarming to get messages from fellow athletes that are closeted, fellow UFC fighters that are closeted, people with notoriety that were just like, ‘Hey man, it’s an inspiration, and it sucks on the terms that it happened, but you’re an inspiration. It’s inspiring for you to come out and be the first male UFC fighter to be out.’ And that definitely changed the tune of how I was feeling. It almost felt good to turn a s***** situation into a positive by knowing I’m inspiring people around the world. When I say it was more than just a dozen, it was at least 100 messages from fighters, athletes, actors, musicians, just regular Joes. That was pretty cool.”
Molina, 25, admitted he was on the fence about even speaking about the matter publicly.
He said his sexuality is something that he repressed and struggled with during his childhood and teenage years, and it was only in 2022 that he came out to his family.
“Growing up, these were feelings I suppressed,” Molina said. “These were things I almost denied. I kept telling myself no. I wrestled in high school, I was a jock in high school, so I was almost mad at myself growing up that these were feelings that I had, and I almost would deny them. I would suppress them. I dated a girl for almost three years in high school. And wanting and thinking, like wanting to be normal, like, ‘normal’ — but I’m not abnormal. This should be something that’s normalized. It’s something that isn’t my personality. It’s something so small and it shouldn’t matter, but it does apparently.
“It took me a while to come to terms with this, obviously. These last couple of days have been pretty crazy. These last couple days have been pretty wild, and it almost helped me come to terms with, I am normal, you know? This is something that’s a part of me.
“I used to be mad at myself when I was 16 or 17 for even having these feelings and thinking a certain way,” he continued. “Obviously I’m still letting everything settle in, and the support has been awesome. Friends, family reaching out. That was my biggest worry is going to the gym and just having one person looking at me different or treating me different ... it [would be] heartbreaking. But it’s all been good. And I know not everyone’s going to have the same experience if and when they do come out, but it’s something that you shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are. This should just be something that is normalized, and it sucks that it’s not. And I’m hoping one day we can get to a place where it is.”
An up-and-coming flyweight talent, Molina has racked up a 3-0 record since signing with the UFC in 2020 following a win on the promotion’s Contender Series. He previously faced fierce backlash from a segment of MMA fan base for his decision to wear the UFC’s Pride Month fight kit ahead of his most recent fight against Zhalgas Zhumagulov.
Molina said he hoped to become more established in his MMA career before coming out, if only because he knows that some people won’t be able to look past his sexual orientation.
“I’ve been in the UFC since 2020 and I knew that one day I’d come out. I wanted it to be on my own terms, of course, and not like this, but I wanted it to be in a different part of my career,” Molina said. “I knew coming out would just be like, all my accomplishments [would be invalidated by some people], the fact that I go out there and put on performances.
“I wanted to be known for my skills, man. I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old and I bust my ass. I’m not the most athletic kid in the world, but I train my ass off, I’m in the gym every day, two to three times a day. And this wasn’t something that I wanted to be known for. This is, again, so small and and isn’t my personality. It’s a part of who I am, but it’s not me, if that makes sense. This is just something that should be nonchalant, and unfortunately, it’s not. But now that this is out, and my hand was kind of forced into coming out, but it is what it is, I’m not going to cry over spilled milk and I’m going to take it in stride. And if I can inspire other people, then that’s what I want to do.”
Molina is currently suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission as part of the ongoing investigation into the betting scandal involving his longtime head coach James Krause. Molina confirmed Wednesday that he remains under UFC contract but said he was unable to comment further on Krause’s situation because of the ongoing nature of the case.
For now, Molina hopes to use every avenue available to him to turn an unfortunate situation into a positive, beginning by bringing awareness to the One Community Jiu-Jitsu Club foundation, a Kansas City-based organization which seeks to “reduce gun violence and mental illness with comradery, humility, resilience, and hand-to-hand self defense.”
Molina also delivered a message to other closeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community who find themselves struggling with the same feelings he dealt with throughout his youth.
“It seems like the reaction in your head is always going to be the worst,” Molina said. “Like, ‘What if this happens? What if that happens?’ But it’s almost coming to terms with who you are. And as of now, in the world, it’s not normal behavior. It’s not a norm to be attracted to the same sex, as a guy. But you can’t change who you are, and it’s OK to be who you are. If you’re not hurting anybody and your sexual preference is the same sex, there’s nothing wrong with it. And unfortunately, sometimes it is frowned upon and looked down upon.
“But the people that actually care about you and love you, and your friends, if they truly do love you and care about you, then their reaction is going to be a positive one, one that they support you and shouldn’t care whom you choose to be with or sleep with.”