Fighting for survival: MMA practically banned in France

Fighting for survival: MMA practically banned in France
A press release from the French Sports Ministry on Wednesday outlawed both the octagon cage used in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and several of the sport’s key techniques, effectively banning it in France.

The main French MMA Federation, CFMMA, however says it will challenge new laws put in place by the Sports Ministry.

“Fights will take place on a carpet or in a ring with three or four ropes – the corners of the ring will be protected,” the latest release reads.

READ MORE: MMA to apply to become Olympic sport

“The following techniques are strictly outlawed and will lead to immediate disqualification: punches, kicks or strikes with the knees against a fighter on the ground.

“Any strike with the elbow; headbutts; blows to the genitals, the spine, the back of the head or the throat; putting the fingers in the eyes, mouth or nose.

“Pulling the hair; biting; throwing (the opponent) intentionally onto the head or neck; throwing the opponent out of the ring.”

CFMMA is unrecognized by the state of France, meaning it does not qualify as a regular combat sport.

Its president, Bertrand Amoussou, told numerous media outlets the new rules were “disrespectful” to mixed martial arts.

“The ministry takes us for idiots - all countries have recognized MMA in Europe except France and Norway,” he said.

“I hoped it would not come to this, but the CFMMA will launch a legal action to contest this decree.”

One of the main drivers of the situation could be the strong position against MMA by the French Federation of Judo. France is one of the leading countries in the latter sport. During the Rio 2016 Olympics, French judokas gained two gold, two silver and one bronze medal.

Many of France's top MMA fighters have moved to America to compete, including Bellator heavyweight Cheick Kongo, who is now based in Southern California.

In a previous interview with MMAjunkie, Kongo said he was desperate for his sport to be treated seriously in his homeland.

“People think it's a messy sport just for bullies, or people [who fight] with no skills,” he said.

“We've got no respect, no control, no anything. No rules. And they keep the old UFC in mind.

“When we have the time to share a good discussion about the subject, they will learn and realize that we're just different.”

Tom Duquesnoy and Mansour Barnaoui are two younger French fighters who currently have set their sights on a career in the US, while Taylor Lapilus is already making his way up the UFC bantamweight rankings.

In Russia, MMA was officially recognized as a sports discipline in 2012, under the influence of Russian MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko. He is now the head of the MMA Union, the governing body for the sport.

Earlier this month, Emelianenko released a statement on his social media account in which he criticized the organizers of an MMA event called ‘Grand Prix Akhmat 2016’ in Grozny, Chechnya, that featuring exhibition MMA fights between children aged eight, nine, and 10.

The situation with the kids’ fights sparkled a huge controversy in Russia, and has eventually led to reaction at the level of then-Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

“I think it’s time to talk about this issue. No competitions can take place on the territory of the Russian Federation unless they follow the rules of the registered sport. There are particular age limits for this kind of sport. Children can only practice MMA from a certain age, let alone compete [in that kind of sport],” said Mutko.