by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
France has become quite a hot bed for mixed martial arts talent over the years, but not one that immediately springs to mind on the world stage. Why? Because MMA as a sport in France has been banned for many years; mainly for political reasons and to protect the sanctity of traditional martial arts, but the times they are a changing.

It was recently announced that there will be a test event in April that will be used to assess the sport. If it gets the all clear, promotions will be popping up all over the place to satisfy previously withheld demand. The inaugural promotion is as yet unnamed, but a basic outline of the approved MMA format is as follows:

– There will be no “Cage” events; all events must be held in a ring.
– There will be no kicks to the body or the head on the ground.
– There will be no knee strikes to the head on the ground, but the body is allowed.
– There will be no elbow strikes on the ground.

Aside from the above, the basis of the rules remains similar to the “Unified Rules” format as adopted by the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the vast majority of promotions worldwide.

The legalization of MMA as a sport in France has massive implications, positive and negative. Established fighters will finally be able to fight in their own country without having to fight abroad. They will be able to advertise their gyms as MMA disciplined and thus increase awareness of the sport, in turn gaining new members and increasing the depth of talent in training. Finally, they will be able to be recognized for the talented fighters they are in their own country.

“About four or five years ago, the U.K. was in a similar situation to France in relation to the amount of good solid teams you could train at. If you wanted everything in-house, top notch, you went to London Shootfighters, but now things are different and there are literally gyms all over the country that offer top-level training. It’s not just limited to one place anymore,” stated UFC veteran Jess “The Joker” Liaudin about the potential talent pool growth.

“This will likely be the same in France, we have excellent strikers there and excellent grapplers too, it’s only a matter of time before they all come together”

Negatively, if promotions start popping up too fast, there could be infighting between them and a lot of sharks getting involved under the perception that the sport will sustain them. If new promotions don’t tread carefully from a medical and safety point of view, it would take only a few incidents to undo all the positive work undertaken so far in legalizing the sport. If established fighters demand too much money and place themselves outside of the affordability range at this early stage, the French fans will still not get the chance to be able to see their stars.

French fighter Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate offered his thoughts on the subject, “Well, as I was expecting… now that the sport is allowed a lot of people are going to be fighting to get the key functions in the sanctioning body. There’s going to be a lot of bickering and disputes and I’m not sure that the first period of MMA in France is going to be a very good one for the sport. We’ll just have to wait and see and hope I’m wrong”

Liaudin also weighed in, saying, “It is going to be a year of mistakes and politics, but it’s good that it’s legal now. We just need to avoid experienced guys with 15-0 records fighting local nobodies and damaging the sport. If you look at MMA globally, it took 10 years to get to where we are now. France will not change overnight, it will take time, but people will rush it and jump on the bandwagon to make a quick buck.”

From a global MMA point of view, the sport’s legalization in France presents an interesting opportunity for the UFC. It had previously been mentioned that the American MMA Goliath had considered running an event in Monaco, but due to close political affiliation with France, Monaco had become less of a prospect of late. With the relaxing of stance relating to MMA in France, the principality becomes a very wealthy and elite potential location for a premiere MMA event.