UNITE HERE: France Says “Non!” to Las Vegas UFC-Style Cage Fighting
The French Sports Ministry, which is headed by Valérie Fourneyron, reconfirmed recently the country’s ban on mixed martial arts (“MMA”), stalling for now hopes that UFC-style cage fighting events will become legal in France.
Responding to a question from a Deputy of the National Assembly, the Sports Ministry stated on July 2: “Free Fight, or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), takes place inside a cage and allows strikes against the opponent while on the ground. The policy of the Ministry has not changed and remains clear. The practice of MMA is not allowed and its events/shows are not permitted.”
The ban was reconfirmed despite lobbying of the French government by Zuffa LLC of Las Vegas, whose Ultimate Fighting Championship (“UFC”) promotes violent spectacles of “free fighting” or “cage fighting” (so-called “mixed martial arts”). Last year, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta called France a “massive opportunity” and said he was “encouraged that you’ll be eating croissants watching the UFC pretty soon.”
Carole Bretteville, President of the Women's Committee for Federation Francaise du Sport d'Entreprise (“FFSE”), applauded the Ministry’s response. “France works very hard to promote equality in all aspects of life, especially in sports,” said Bretteville. “FFSE promotes sport as a unifying force, where management and employees together benefit from shared recreation activities. I was appalled to find out how UFC was lobbying in France, especially when UNITE HERE informed me how UFC has tolerated derogatory statements and attitudes against women. We cannot allow such an organization to destroy all the work we have done to promote equality through French sports. I applaud the Minister’s courage to reject free fighting in France.”
UNITE HERE’s European Development Director Blake Harwell said: “We were not surprised. European attitudes toward such bloody displays date back centuries. Add in the anti-social issues and I'd say Zuffa and the IMMAF have a long way to go to make MMA palatable. No matter what name they call it, cage fighting still fails to meet European expectations for what counts as sport.”
Blake Harwell, +44 (0) 7720-77-3025