France’s CFMMA fighters maintain momentum despite national ban

Pictured: Frenchman Allan Guciahrd (blue) battles in the Heavyweight final of the 2016 IMMAF World Amateur Championships in Las Vegas, USA.  Last October it was revealed that the French Sports Ministry had introduced new conditions for organizing public demonstrations of combat sports, with particular frameworks to effectively ban MMA competition in the nation. The ‘undemocratic’ changes were introduced ahead of an anticipated report, commissioned by the French parliament, that ultimately recommended the official legalization of MMA with recognition for Commission Française de Mixed Martial Arts (CFMMA), the national governing body under IMMAF. In the weeks that followed, experienced French competitors Henri Dimitri and Allan Guichard traveled to represent France with the CFMMA national amateur team at the 2016 IMMAF European Open Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. Amateur Heavyweight contender Guichard returned to the competition having earned Silver at the July IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas, USA. Dimitri battled his way to the IMMAF podium for the first time, earning Bronze in the Welterweight division. Despite the difficulties that French athletes have faced, they have found a welcoming home for competition abroad with opportunities for experience outside of the annual IMMAF Championship events. UK based promotion BCMMA showcases a diverse card of both professional and amateur MMA, and has become a valued hub of competition for France’s CFMMA fighters, working with the UK MMA Federation (UKMMAF) and independent medical safety body, SafeMMA. Prior to the Sports Minister’s decree which ordered a targeted ban on an already effectively banned sport, a team of 6 athletes selected by CFMMA  and accompanied by coach Lionel Brezephin, competed under the BCMMA banner on September 24. Flyweight competitor Haga Rabekoto competed for the promotion’s 125lb amateur title, while IMMAF World Championship veterans Mahio Campanella and Eloge Bofale both secured victories. The desire of French amateur athletes has remained strong despite October’s setback. The participation of French athletes at November’s European Open planted a stake in the ground. Their momentum will continue into the new year with veterans set to return to BCMMA on February 18 ahead of the 2017 IMMAF European Open in March, taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria. Hopefully also in 2017, the French MMA community will see the recommendations of French parliamentary reporters Jaques Grosperin and Patrick Vignal implemented, with governmental support for the regulation of Amateur MMA at last coming into play. Perhaps soon we can truly hope to see Team France competing in IMMAF championships with the support of its government and country. By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran

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