French Minister of Sports, Roxana Mărăcineanu, has stated her plans to regulate MMA practice and (eventually) permit MMA competition in France, speaking in an interview this morning on RMC Sport.

Although practised for years informally in France, MMA competition has been prohibited there, forcing French MMA athletes to compete abroad. The French Amateur team has achieved well in IMMAF – WMMAA international championships with two world gold medallists to date, despite obstacles to practice. 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 However, the report’s publication was superseded by a ministerial decree that explicitly banned use of the enclosed MMA ring and strikes on the ground.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.

The new Sports Minister’s interview with RMC now provides a Rubicon moment for the sport in France: The former Olympic silver swimming medallist has made a clear statement in favour of the legalisation of MMA. She spoke of the risks of having a “sport which is practised widely in France but not recognised”, including unlicensed coaches, marginalisation leading to exploitation by those with ill intentions and political radicalisation through sport.

“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.”

Acknowledging that professional MMA has an image that could appear to be degrading due to the use of ‘the cage’ and shots on the ground, Mărăcineanu proposed alternatives could be sought to the cage which seems to “hold fighters in the ring like animals.” However, she recognised that the purpose of the MMA Ring is to perform a safety and sporting function.

Addressing the next practical steps for the recognition of MMA, the minister continued to outline plans to support the administrative development of the national MMA federation (the CFMMA – The Commission Française de MMA), which will initially be housed within another recognised martial arts federation: “We have called for expressions of interest, through which other federations will be able to declare their candidacy.”

This should lead in future to the authorisation of MMA competition, based on the successful establishment of the CFMMA under the proposed structure.

Speaking with, CFMMA President and IMMAF Board Director, Bertrand Amoussou, commented:

“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. “

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