Mixed martial arts promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship has welcomed a decision by France’s Ministry of Sports to officially recognise MMA as a sport.
The Ministry has launched a tender process for existing sports federations to oversee MMA, both from a professional and amateur perspective. This will allow for the staging of MMA events in the country, with proposals for a two-year contract accepted through to the end of September.
In a statement, the UFC said the decision opens new prospects for the development of MMA, both at the amateur and professional levels, and will be a benefit to multiple French stakeholders.
Lawrence Epstein, senior executive vice-president and chief operating officer of UFC, said: “UFC welcomes the announcement by the Ministry of Sports, which is the first step in officially recognising MMA and integrating the sport into the French sports ecosystem.
“We will closely follow the progress of the consultation period and pay particular attention to the respect of the integrity of MMA and preservation of its rules by the host federation. We put our global MMA expertise at the disposal of the French authorities to make this process a collective construction.”
In justifying its decision, the Ministry noted that it is estimated that MMA has around 40,000 practitioners in France, adding: “The practice of MMA, at least at the amateur level, is a reality in France and is developing especially for young and female audiences.
“We can no longer overshadow this reality, we must be able to frame and structure it. Moreover, professional practice exists and is regulated in almost all other states.”
France is currently one of few countries in the world that does not recognise MMA as a sport, but the ministry’s decision is set to change this, effective from 2020.