France is one of the few places in the world where mixed martial arts remains illegal. However, growing political support of MMA could mean change is on the way.
French Minister of Sports Roxana Mărăcineanu recently announced plans to regulate MMA. The practice of the discipline has been occurring for years in the country, but the law required French athletes to compete elsewhere.
According to IMMAF.org, “In 2015, a parliamentary review of MMA, conducted by [cross-parliamentary MPs] Jacques Grosperrin and Patrick Vignal, led to the recommendation that the outlawed sport should be permitted and regulated. However, the report’s publication was superseded by a ministerial decree that explicitly banned use of the enclosed MMA ring and strikes on the ground. This rendered the sport, which was already not permitted in practice through local licensing, officially illegal at the highest level.”
While Mărăcineanu, a former Olympic silver medalist in swimming, does support MMA, she understands the negative public perception of the standard MMA cage and other aspects of the sport. Her push for regulation is with the safety of athletes in mind, with regard to unlicensed coaches and various other issues.
“I have been to see how it is taught, and it is a sport that includes all the techniques of combat sports,” said the minister, referring to MMA as a “complete sport.”
“We have already carried out all the necessary research,”
Her plan contains a temporary measure that would include housing the national federation, the CFMMA (Commission Française de MMA), under an existing martial arts federation. The CFMMA is part of the global push for Olympic recognition of MMA.
“I have been fighting this case for over 10 years now, and 14 informally. This is the first time that a Minister has made such a statement,” said CFMMA President Bertrand Amoussou.
“We have never heard this before in France,” added Amoussou. “The previous Sports Minister, Laura Flessel-Colovic, wanted to legalize the sport and was just 15 days away from actioning this when she was forced to step down. We are finally, after so many years, happy and grateful to be almost there.”
French Judo Federation President Jean-Luc Rougé, a longtime and vocal opponent of the sport issued his own statement expressing concerns, but granting that MMA could be housed under his federation.
In the wake of Mărăcineanu’s initial announcement, the French Wrestling Federation has voiced its support of MMA as well.
”We have a project that is well underway for us to be able to take on MMA, as voted by our general assembly in April 2018 by more than 80 percent,” said FWF head Alain Bertholom. “So we will be ready to respond to what looks like a kind of departmental tender. What is certain is that we must now decide to properly supervise this practice, otherwise there will, one day or another, be problems.”
Meanwhile, IMMAF-WMMAA President Kerrith Brown added, “I am heartened by the openness of other combat sports, at a national level, to a collaboration with MMA. Our sports share so many more commonalities than differences. I look forward to observing the progression of these discussions in France through the CFMMA in the best interests of our sport.”
On a similarly positive note, MMA has also achieved government recognition in Norway.