By Monica Sainz, Ph.D
Special to Sports Fitness Network
This article is a special repost from the Global Sport Management News Newsletter.
American spectators have become accustomed to watching mixed martial arts fights on TV or live in Las Vegas, or Atlantic City. Most people are aware that it is a sport combining moves and rules from wrestling, boxing, jiu-jitsu, and kick boxing, and other contact sports, and that it is practiced in a cage. This relatively new discipline has its roots in different corners of the world, such as Japan, Europe and Pacific nations, but also Brazil, also famous for its combat sports.
While Americans can enjoy practicing the sport freely, and go to competitions or watch events on television, other nations’ athletes and fans are waiting for recognition from their government to fully establish MMA as a discipline, full with development facilities, recognized trainers, and fully accredited competitions. France is one such country, where many dedicated athletes and managers are working tirelessly to have MMA recognized by the Ministry of Sport. There are no French laws forbidding the practice of the sport, but the TV regulators (CSA) have forbidden the sport on its channels, in 2006.
MMA is currently in the infant stages with the leadership of Bertrand Amoussou, a former champion himself. Mr. Amoussou the athlete has a very strong background for his new position. He is a National Champion judoka, with ten years on France’s National Team. He is a three time world champion in Ju-Jitsu combat. He is trained in kick boxing. He is also the 2004 winner of the Pride Fighting championship bout. Mr. Amoussou is now the founding president of the National Commission of Mixed Martial Arts (CNMMA). His role is to pave the way to have the sport recognized in France. CNMMA officials are trying to educate people on the new discipline, so it can develop and evolve as other authorized sports. When MMA becomes approved by the Ministry, the sport will most likely be delegated to a federation, closely related, such as FFSCDA (contact sport federation), or FFL (wrestling federation).
It is currently impossible to count how many athletes MMA counts in France because there is no federation structure in place. Many athletes practice the sport under the wings of other contact sports which have an established structure. These are wrestling, thai boxing, jiu- jitsu and others. Often, trainers of jiu jitsu and thai boxing gather forces to train in MMA, under the umbrella of either the jiu jitsu or thai boxing sport. MMA is regulated as all other combat sports, and CNMMA has a website where people can learn about the sport, history, and regulations.
Current stars of MMA in France are Cheick Kongo, Christian M’Pumbu, Karl Amoussou (younger brother of the CNMMA president) and Cyril Diabate. These stars fight overseas. In France, there are competitions of MMA light- also known as Pancrace. It is MMA without fighting elements performed on the floor. MMA is also a sport for females. There is a professional tour for female athletes. Mr. B. Amoussou states that if an athlete can practice judo, wrestling, or jiu jitsu, then he or she can practice MMA, boy or girl.
The CNMMA has created a training program for athletes wishing to teach MMA. The athletes come from the other combat sports. They receive three day training classes, and are evaluated on their technical and teaching abilities. Mr. Amoussou said they have held three sessions so far, and have 60 trained instructors this far. In order to increase interest and awareness of the sport, CNMMA has held a 2011 Beach Tour in France, which was a real success. They have also been able to have an exhibit at the Extreme Sport Salon in Marseille, a city in southern France. 2012 will also have a Beach Tour with five cities to show people that the sport can be practiced by all.
Mr. Amoussou also has a connection with the Ministry of Sport in the name of David Douillet, who is a former world champion judoka. He and Minister Douillet are friends, practice partners and former National Team Judo teammates. He has educated Minister Douillet on MMA and the fact that it is a sport like any other. He is confident that Minister Douillet is an attentive and constructive listener. The hugest struggle is to get people opposed to the sport to change their mind.