By William Pereira in ’20 Minutes’ magazine, 23 May 2018. [Translated using Google Translate. Read the original French language article here: 20180523_PAR]: Laura Flessel, Minister of Sports, could promote the emancipation of the discipline, whose competitions are prohibited in France By the simple appointment of Laura Flessel (pictured above) at the head of the Ministry of Sports, MMA (mixed martial arts) has gained a weighty ally in its quest for recognition. This is because the competitions in the combat sport are still banned in France. However, things are moving forward. In 2015, a parliamentary mission, conducted by (cross-parliamentary MPs) Jacques Grosperrin and Patrick Vignal, led to the creation of a watchdog to oversee the supervision of the discipline. “The file that was returned to the government by Vignal and Grosperrin did a lot of good for MMA, explains the ex-fighter Cyrille Diabaté, who sits on the watchdog. Before that, only the words of critics were heard over anyone elses’, especially those of Jean-Luc Rougé [head of the French judo federation].” Bertrand Amoussou (also pictured), one of the leaders of MMA in France, is optimistic as to the influence of Laura Flessel on the issue: “Braillard, Fourneyron [former Sports Ministers] did not differentiate between MMA and kickboxing. With Flessel, there is more listening. We have to see where that leads us.” According to Diabaté: “The watchdog has tackled two issues, practitioners’ health and the training of coaches. We might even have an announcement around (MMA’s) legalization before the end of the year.” The legalization referred to by Diabaté encompasses that of the whole practice, as opposed to (solely) that of coaching, under qualified coaches, as advocated by the ministry. Indeed, can we really formalize the practice of a sport while continuing to ban competitions? “One does not go without the other, so I think it will be in the specifications. We can predict that”, considers Amoussou. On the ministry side, it is assured that no decision has been taken. The outlines of coaching practice have been drawn and proposed to Laura Flessel, who will study the project in the coming weeks. “On the one hand, we must structure the practice,” Amoussou continues. “On the other hand, there is also the image. There is confusion in people’s minds about what MMA is. In the videos, they do not see the training sessions. They see the UFC where guys are throwing punches. The parliamentary mission carried out by Vignal and Grosperrin was not deceived, discussing the need to for a “quality mark for the technical and educational contents of the practice of mixed martial arts disciplines”, to help them get rid of this bad reputation. And Flessel can help.