llaneza_rod_belt.jpgRod Llaneza has kicked – even kick-boxed – his way out of the closet.

The Midtown resident suffered through physical challenges (a broken hand, toes and foot) and personal ones (growing up gay but covering it up for years) as he fought his way to an amateur national title, a belt he held for four years before stepping away from the often brutal sport of kickboxing.

“I trained like a beast, so passionately. It’s a freak show when I am training. I get off on it by having people be impressed by my intensity in the ring,” Llaneza says. “When you fight, it’s like on your mark, get set, go. It’s a sprint. When you have these crazy rednecks looking to take your head off, you’ve got to do it. When I train, I am serious. If I’m not about to puke, then I know I’m not training.”

Once he won a title in 2001, Llaneza thought he could reach even higher. Tempted to come out, he hesitated over concerns of being shunned by the sport and missing a shot at a world championship. For the years he llaneza_rod_dog.jpgheld his kickboxing crown, Llaneza continued to keep his athletic and personal lives mostly separate.

“I was concerned about losing a fight and people saying that he lost the fight because he is gay,” Llaneza says. “But I wanted to be the one voice that makes a difference. I wanted to win a world title so I can have a platform to come out and say, ‘Y’all got beat by a sissy.’ I would have the credentials to say, and have the platform to say, I am the best I am at the most manliest sport and be able to say I’m gay.”

Read the full profile of Llaneza I wrote for Outsports.com.