IMMAF welcomes French judo federation interest in MMA - with reservations
Controversy over the possibility of an end to a prolonged ban on mixed martial arts in France is continuing, with Kerrith Brown, president of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, welcoming interest from the French judo federation, the FFDJA, in taking MMA under its wing, but disputing some claims made by Jean-Luc Rougé, president of FFDJA.
Rougé, described by IMMAF as a “long standing opponent of MMA,” said in a statement: “Recreational MMA is not a problem… Our federation, with some technical adjustments can quite manage this activity with its clubs and teachers, and very quickly. With regards to ‘amateur’ competitions, if we are free to define the technical content and the cultural and ethical aspects, we can also take care of them.”
He added that, for professional fights, “it is quite otherwise… The fighting is organized by private companies that do not have, among them, the same requirements for medical checks and monitoring. There are also variants in arbitration that can be important, especially when a fighter is in physical difficulty. If we were to integrate or support MMA, we would ask for the possibility of banning certain events… The state must decide on general rules to which all sports must submit.”
Brown (pictured), himself a former judoka, today responded by questioning Rougé’s call for “technical adjustments” in amateur MMA (which IMMAF governs) and arguing that “MMA already operates under its own complete and universal rule sets. These include the use of the Octagon… as an integral part of the game for elite level competitors, protecting the integrity of a match as well as their safety.”
IMMAF has long argued that the controversial octagon, also known as a cage, one of the most recognisable characteristics of MMA, serves to protect both fighters and spectators.
However, Brown said that IMMAF “shares Mr. Rougé’s view that professional MMA should be regulated in order to safeguard the sport’s participants. He is right in citing variants in arbitration and safety standards across private MMA events for as long as the sport is unregulated – Indeed, top level professional promoters, such as UFC, uphold extremely high standards in medical safety and arbitration, but while the sport is outlawed it remains a Wild West at the grass roots, and our unrecognised governing bodies have not been empowered to tackle this.”
Brown ended his statement by inviting Rougé to attend IMMAF’s European Championships in Rome in June, saying: “Here he will be able to witness for himself our processes in athlete preclearance, onsite and post-match medical provisions, anti-doping, rules and regulations, officiating, inspection, hygiene control, equipment control, record-keeping and all other operational aspects.”
Earlier this week, it emerged that the longstanding ban on MMA 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.
Mărăcineanu acknowledged that the cage and strikes against fighters on the ground, another controversial aspect of MMA, 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 had 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.
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.
IMMAF 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.