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Report: French sports minister pushes back committee to legalize MMA

UFC night at Target Center in Minneapolis Photo by Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A targeted date to fastrack legal MMA in France has been postponed as the ministry of sport seeks guidance from its Olympic committee.

The minister, Roxana Maracineanu, will delay by at least one month the formalization of an advisory committee that will oversee sanctioning of the sport, according to a report on Wednesday in Le Parisien.

Maracineanu initially announced the committee would begin its work on Jan. 1, 2020, ending a long fight to legalize the sport and open doors to promotions such as the UFC. Now, the minister apparently has pumped the brakes, seeking guidance from the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, which oversees a group of federations for Olympic sports such as taekwondo and wrestling. The committee could be formalized as early as February, though no concrete date is official.

The federation selected to oversee professional and amateur MMA in France will receive a two-year contract. Groups representing kickboxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, judo, and savate (French boxing) are expected to submit proposals.

Bertrand Amoussou, president of IMMAF member Commission Française de Mixed Martial Arts, downplayed the delay, saying it was “no big deal” because the Olympic committee was always a part of the process. He attributed the holdup to the committee’s schedule and added a new federation is being formed to represent French MMA in a bid to regulate the sport.

“I’ve been fighting for this recognition for 15 years now,” he wrote in a email to MMA Fighting. “I can wait another month.”

Still, the delay could put a crimp in the plans of one French MMA promotion, Aries MMA, which has announced a March 21 date in Paris at a venue to be determined. Aries chief Fernand Lopez told Le Parisien he won’t be deterred by the delay.

”Even if we want to do it in Paris, we have already booked a large room in a European city to host the event, if necessary,” he said. “The Ares machine will not stop.”

The UFC, which currrently has eight fighters under contract with roots in France, has lobbied behind the scenes to legalize MMA and bring a major event to the country. Francis Ngannou’s coach, Fernand Lopez, heralded the committee’s formation when it was announced.

Despite a ban on MMA, several promoters have held underground events.

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