Sports minister proposes legalising long-banned MMA in France
A longstanding ban on mixed martial arts in France could be set to be rescinded after Roxana Mărăcineanu, the country’s sports minister, said that she would seek to regulate the sport before finally legalising it.
Although practised informally in the country, there is no legal framework for the sport, and competition in its characteristic ‘hexagon’ or cage, while strikes against fighters on the ground, one of the most controversial features of the sport, are banned.
However, in an interview with RMC Sport, Mărăcineanu said: “Today we have this sport which is widely practised in France but not recognised, and there’s therefore a danger that unqualified coaches will get involved, and also that it will be practised in places among people who do not have the best intentions…
“So we want to regulate it to keep an eye on this discipline and on this entire sport.”
Mărăcineanu acknowledged that the cage and ground strikes could give the sport a “degrading” image at the professional level, but proposed seeking an alternative to the cage “which holds fighters in the ring like animals.” However, she also recognised that the cage performs a safety and sporting function.
The sports minister added that mixed martial arts in France would not be represented by its own national federation, but would be accommodated within an existing federation.
She said that the government has already “launched a call for expressions of interest, through which the other federations will be able to declare their candidacy to welcome it.”
This could lead to legalised competition at a national level “if the marriage is good between the disciplines in question,” according to Mărăcineanu.
IMMAF-WMMAA, the sport’s world governing body, today welcomed the move, with board director Bertrand Amoussou saying: “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. We have never heard this before in France. The previous sports minister, Laura Flessel-Colovic, wanted to legalise 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.”
An application to the Global Association of International Sports Federations for observer status by IMMAF-WMMAA was rejected in February, with no explanation for the decision having been given, according to the federation.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation recently merged with the rival World Mixed Martial Arts Association to form IMMAF-WMAAA, as part of its bid for recognition.
The federation has made no secret of its ambition for mixed martial arts to feature on the Olympic programme in the long term.