France Update – Undemocratic Sports Minister Decree Bans MMA Rules

“MMA UNLIKELY TO BE AUTHORIZED IN FRANCE” Source: Translated from French article by Par Guillaume Gendron using Google Translate A ministerial decree sets new conditions for organizing public demonstrations of combat sports, taking care to exclude the popular but maligned MMA, in a move against the legalization awaited by fans. In the endless fight that pits the French State against apologists for mixed martial arts (MMA), the Ministry of Sports has unleashed a neat hook in the side of those who had hoped for some relaxation of existing restrictions. Here’s a summary of the previous rounds: MMA competitions – as a violent popular sport that combines a variety of disciplines, Thai boxing to judo – are prohibited in France, in the name of “human dignity”, a fluctuating legal concept. However, the recommendation of the Council of Europe on which the French authorities is based should be amended in the coming months to reflect the growing and almost unanimous acceptance of the discipline its member states. Thus, the prohibition made in France today is an exception in the world. Only Thailand (to protect its national sport more than anything else) and Norway (historically opposed to all sports involving a KO) are in the same situation. Nevertheless, legal uncertainty reigns over the microcosm of MMA in a cage. Nothing prevents participation in MMA in a more-or-less amateur space, outside any institutional framework. This does not stop the multiplying MMA clubs (with their members estimated at between 30 000 and 50 000), or French athletes from shining abroad in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a leading global organization of MMA . Returning to the hook in the ribs; the official news release dated October 23, indicates that the Sports Ministry has issued an early order to redefine the “technical and safety rules applicable to public demonstrations of combat sports.” If MMA is never mentioned, it is clearly targeted, through three blacklisted prohibitions: blows to the opponent to the ground, the use of elbows to strike and the obligation to fight on a carpet or inside a ring. The famous wire cage of MMA, called the “Octagon” is prohibited. Finally, such an event must be affiliated to a sports federation recognized by the state – which is obviously not the case with MMA. In summary, the department has a concrete rationale to prohibit such events and avoid dirty tricks. One year ago, a trio of promoters managed to organize a night of fights at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris, using a cage and with strikes on the ground, having submitted a thick application filled with nuances to the authorities which had passed under the radar of the administration. The timing of the initiative is interesting. In September, Patrick Vignal, MP PS and Jacques Grosperrin, Senator LR, were commissioned by parliament to pursue the matter of the Cirque d’Hiver, and announced the imminent release of their report in mid-October. They positioned themselves in favour of legalization and establishing a French MMA federation within three years. “We cannot always say no to young people who chose MMA over substitutes,” they explained to AFP at the time. Since then, there has been no update. On the back of this, has Thierry Braillard sought to thwart the attempts of the duo? In the media, the Minister of Sport has maintained a very firm anti-MMA line, influenced, some say, by the President of the French Judo Federation Jean-Luc Rougé. Others report that Braillard’s interest in the matter is the resurrection of pro boxing. Meanwhile, in a show of robustness overseas on the part of MMA, the UFC is preparing with great pomp to hold its first “Fight Night” at Madison Square Garden, the temple of boxing, on November 12 . This comes just months after the lifting of the ban by the State of New York, the final block to the expansion of the discipline in the United States. Decree is “Deplorable And Undignified” to the Parliamentary Rapporteurs Late afternoon, Senator Jacques Grosperrin fulminated: “To issue such an order while a bipartisan task is yet to release its findings is deplorable and inelegant. It shows a clear lack of respect for the parliamentary work underway.” Senator LR says he and his PS counterpart met with the Minister of Sports a fortnight ago to “give their feelings” which were rather favourable of the legalization of the discipline, following 170 hours of hearings of 150 people. “Coaches, social scientists, athletes, doctors, federal presidents, local politicians, senior officials, the elected lists. Thierry Braillard did not then say anything. We learned of the decree from athletes who called us saying that they did not understand. I have never seen such behaviour in politics. What does it mean? That our committee was puppet? We were denied the completion of our mission because they were afraid that our proposals were going in the opposite direction of the status quo?” The two rapporteurs have nevertheless decided to present their findings at a press conference next week. Next round takes place on 8 November. Pictured: The French Amateur MMA team  

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