France Adjusts Its Position On MMA

Mandatory Credit: Chris Unger - Zuffa LLC

While MMA enjoys great popularity in many corners of the globe, it has not enjoyed the same success everywhere. It has been a strange ten years or so for MMA in France, as the sport was outlawed just six years ago. However, a dramatic U-turn in government measures saw the UFC host an event in the French capital of Paris earlier this year.

The decision to allow an MMA event in the country was one of the last big battles that the sport had been fighting, and it could lead to bigger growth across the rest of the globe as a result. But, how did France go from banning MMA events to allowing a huge heavyweight showdown in the country in just six years?

French Ban On MMA

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that MMA events were banned entirely in France, as lawmakers claimed that the events were brutal and barbaric. It could be argued that France has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to accepting MMA, especially the UFC. That has led to major events avoiding the country, with big events instead being hosted in Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom. However, the tale of the UFC hosting an event in Paris is one of triumph.

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French authorities banned the sport in 2016, as they looked to lobby young athletes skilled in mixed martial arts disciplines into careers such as judo, as the country could achieve success at the Olympics. The reason for the ban was to ensure that new MMA stars wouldn’t be taken by the bright lights of the UFC, and the fear of the talent pool drying up when it comes to Olympic selection.

MMA Fans In France

Those fears were realized for UFC fans in the country in 2016, as the country finally made the decision to ban MMA, as they failed to recognize it as a sport. That was further highlighted by the fact that the use of an octagon and many techniques used in MMA was also outlawed. The law stated that fights must take place on a carpet, and at least three or four ropes would be in use.

However, the ban went further than just outlawing those that wanted to take part in the sport. In fact, fans of companies such as the UFC weren’t able to stream events that were taking place live outside of France. But, there were signs of the MMA regulated in France restrictions being lifted in 2020, as the CSA broke the 15-year ban on televised MMA events. However, there are still certain restrictions in operations, as only viewers aged 16 or over can watch, and there is a 8:30 p.m watershed.

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Easing Of Restrictions

The change in the broadcasting deal was just the tip of the iceberg, as further advances were made in 2020, as it was announced by Roxana Maracineanu, who is the French Minister of Sport, that the government would be looking to include MMA in their sporting bracket. That deal was eventually won by the French Boxing Authority, which now has legal oversight on the sport. However, the French Mixed Martial Arts Federation also plays a key supporting role in ensuring that events and rules are followed closely.

It only seemed a matter of time before rules were lifted in the country. Despite the ban, the popularity of MMA in France remained high, with around 40,000 people reportedly training in MMA. That success and overturn in the law meant that MMA companies could stage events in the country, which led to Bellator hosting 280 there in May. However, despite being an underwhelming event, it was a landmark moment in the history of the sport, and the UFC’s decision to host fights there was widely received.

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Gane Headlines First Show

It was only fitting that the first UFC Fight Night in France was headlined by a proud French national. Undeniably, it went down as one of the biggest nights in the career of Ciryl Gane, as he defended the interim Heavyweight Championship against Tai Tuivasa. Gane walked out in front of a huge crowd of 15,000 at Accor Arena, and the event was a huge success, taking a total gate of $3.2 million.

It would also end in a famous win for the French fighter, as he successfully defended his gold with a third-round KO. Other huge names on the show included Robert Whittaker, who beat Marvin Vettori, and Nathaniel Wood, who beat Charles Jourdain.

Final Thoughts

It has been a long time coming but France has finally caught up to the rest of the world and accepted MMA as the sport it deserves to be. That can only be a good piece of news for all parties involved, and it may not be much longer before we see French fighters dominating the octagon.