UFC targets future event in France as barriers to MMA come down
UFC, the prominent international mixed martial arts series, is interested in hosting a future event in France once the sport is fully legalised there.
Last Friday, Roxana Maracineanu, the French sports minister, announced that the FFB, the French boxing federation, had been chosen to oversee the development of MMA in the country.
This followed the decision taken last September to take steps to legalise the long-banned sport of MMA in France.
The ministry of sport said at the time that it would conduct a tender among national sports federations to decide which body would be responsible for the development of MMA if it were to be officially recognised.
Following advice from a board of independent consultants and the CNOSF, the French national Olympic committee, the FFB was selected ahead of the FSGT (multisports), the FFKMDA (kickboxing, Muay Thai and Pancrase), the FFL (wrestling) and Karate Savate (French kickboxing).
Until now, MMA has been banned in France, meaning that the country’s fighters have had to compete abroad.
It has also been a no-go area for UFC, but the Endeavor-owned series can see potential opportunities there.
In a statement yesterday, Lawrence Epstein, UFC senior executive vice-president and chief operating officer, said: “We are very pleased the minister of sport, Roxana Maracineanu, has taken this crucial step in the recognition of MMA in France. France is a leader in sport and a trend setter for the rest of the world. Although the recognition process for MMA still involves several stages, we're excited about the prospects for eventually bringing a live UFC event to France, and we would like to thank all parties who have been involved in the process to regulate our sport.
“We're also looking forward to collaborating with the French Boxing Federation (FFB), with which MMA shares many values and a sport we already have such close ties to in the U.S., to help develop MMA in France."
Top MMA fighters from France include UFC heavyweight star Francis Ngannou and Bellator and UFC veteran Cheick Kongo.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation and the CFMMA, the French committee of mixed martial arts, have both welcomed the CNOSF’s validation of the ministry of sport’s decision for MMA to be legalised under the auspices of the FBF.
Speaking on Friday, IMMAF president Kerrith Brown said: “The official announcement by the CNOSF is a crucial step on the path to creating a dynamic MMA structure in France. IMMAF will continue to supply constructive support and advice to all the MMA stakeholders.”
Bertrand Amoussou, the co-president of the CFMMA and a board director of IMMAF, added: “After many years of commitment and hard work by MMA activists in France, it is a major milestone that CNOSF has recognised our sport. We are now looking forward to working hard, and in a unified way, to ensure that the structures set up to govern MMA work as well as possible.”