The fight for MMA legalization and regulation in North America ended early in 2016, when the New York State Assembly voted to lift the State's 1997 ban on the sport. Internationally, one of the major holdouts was France, where MMA bouts are still prohibited.
Earlier this year France's Ministry of Sport announced that the French Boxing Federation would begin the regulatory process. However, that required approval from the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, and on Friday it was granted.
In France, by law, all sports must be governed within the structures of a government recognized federation and meet specific administrative criteria over a number of years. The interim housing of MMA within a comparative sport's structures has allowed the Minister of Sport to fast-track the legalization and regulation of MMA, while MMA's stakeholding organizations within the country are still in a developmental phase.
The move was welcomed by amateur and professional organizations alike, including the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF), the Comité Français de Mixed Martial Arts (CFMMA), the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA), Bellator MMA, ONE Championship, and the UFC.
IMMAF President Kerrith Brown:
"The official announcement by the CNOSF is a crucial step on the path to creating a dynamic MMA structure in France. IMMAF will continue to supply constructive support and advice to all the MMA stakeholders."
CFMMA Co-President and IMMAF Board Director Bertrand Amoussou:
"After many years of commitment and hard work by MMA activists in France, it is a major milestone that CNOSF has recognized our sport. We are now looking forward to working hard, and in a unified way, to ensure that the structures set up to govern MMA work as well as possible."
President of GAMMA Alexander Engelhardt:
"This development is yet another significant step towards achieving our goal of earning international recognition for mixed martial arts as an Olympic sport. This is a huge milestone in the history of the sport of mixed martial arts in France. Mixed martial arts athletes in France will finally receive the honor and privilege of being able to compete at home, in front of their fans and countrymen on French soil. GAMMA, the official world governing body for amateur mixed martial arts, wishes all the best to all the athletes, participants and fans of MMA in France. We will continue to provide our unwavering support for the growth of amateur mixed martial arts in France, for the betterment of all athletes."
Bellator president Scott Coker:
"Bellator welcomes France's decision to move towards the regulation of professional MMA: We also welcome the decision of the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, to make the French Boxing Federation (FFB) the governing body of professional MMA."
"Given their successful and longstanding track-record with boxing, we believe the French Boxing Federation are well suited to oversee the sport and we will be pleased to work with them towards MMA's continued growth, development, safety and regulation throughout the country. We look forward to hosting Bellator events in France, bringing fans incredible shows featuring some of the best athletes in the world."
ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong:
"As the leader of the world's largest martial arts organization, ONE Championship, I would like to personally congratulate the entire mixed martial arts community in France. France is a beautiful country with a rich history of martial arts, and some of the most talented martial arts athletes in the world. I am excited about the possibilities the future holds. Now we can focus on properly building young amateur talent from the grassroots in France, guiding and nurturing their careers towards becoming esteemed professionals in mixed martial arts. Together, we can achieve a brighter future for our community and all who share our passion for this incredible sport."
UFC president Dana White, who plans to hold an event in 2020:
"Exciting year for Francis, too, because there's not only big fights for him, and a potential title fight, but France, we finally got France done. We've been working hard for a long time to get that place open for MMA, and we'll do a fight there, and obviously Francis [Ngannou] will probably headline. I don't know if you watched the fight from Singapore, but the kid [Ciryl] Gane, big badass heavyweight from France, they'll both fight on that card."
So there is now a clear path to MMA legalization this year in the land of cheese-eating surrender monkeys. C'est beau!