MMA was illegal in France until two years ago. The UFC announced that the first event in history will be held in Paris, France at the Accor Arena on September 3, 2022.
It was extremely difficult to get MMA matches into France due to how sports are organized in France; they are organized through a “minister of sports” whom in which determines which sports are legal within the country. In 2016, the minister of sports at that time, Thierry Braillard” prohibited the sport in the country because he stated that MMA fighting “lacked human dignity” and went further into explaining that the sport is barbaric as it’s like animals fighting in arenas, similar to dogs in cages.
Struggles expanding MMA into international markets
Since 2010, Lawrence Epstein, CEO of the UFC, has traveled to the UFC on multiple occasions to educate and reassure the minister of sports that the country would be certified instructors and safety rules that the fighters would have to follow. Other UFC fighters helped the cause by also visiting the country and attending meetings to assure and convince leaders that it would be the right decision to add MMA in their country.
Their hard work paid off as the sport was made legal. The UFC is actively working on further developing the sport within the country to collaborate with The French Boxing Federation and The Mixed Martial Arts Federation.
Projections for first MMA fight
The country estimates that approximately four million fans will be in attendance as this number was generated from the citizens that watch the fights on TV already, concluding that they are already interested in the sport. As a fan, it is hypothesized that fans will buy tickets especially to see the action live for the first time.
This news is big for the UFC because international markets are pertinent in the growth of the sport. Other successful international markets include China, Brazil, England and Germany. Epstein is very hopeful and confident that the UFC will become a global brand that will slowly legalize in every market around the world. The goal is to blend into different markets so that the UFC brand is recognized everywhere internationally.
Epstein contends that the sport will continue safely with covid—19 testing, as well as strict protocols to ensure the safety of its fans and competitors. During the beginning of the pandemic, the UFC was one of the first sports to resume in 2020 as Epstein worked diligently to restore matches safely that in turn generated more revenue for the organization.
With the UFC being a nine-to-10-billion-dollar company, expanding to different international markets will increase the companies worth. It is projected that expanding to international markets will also bring a different culture to both the country’s citizens as well as the UFC itself.
Hopefully this new market will bring understanding and appreciation of the sport, from a fans point of view and diminish all of the negative stereotypes that previously prohibited the sport in the country. Bringing MMA to France is mutually beneficial to both parties creating new opportunities for the up and coming competitive fighters.