The UFC have welcomed France's announcement this week that they are set to legalise amateur and professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) from January 1st 2020.
France's minister of sport Roxana Maracineanu announced the news this week, which will come as a welcome development for fans of the sport. It now also means top French fighters will be able to compete in their own country.
Au 1er Janvier 2020, le #MMA existera donc officiellement en tant que pratique sportive professionnelle et amateur en France dans le cadre de défini par @Sports_gouv en harmonie avec le paysage international de cette discipline.
— Roxana Maracineanu (@RoxaMaracineanu) June 24, 2019
Marcineanu, a swimming Olympic silver medalist for France at Sydney 2000, had previously said she was going to make a push for MMA legalization in the country, where the sport currently is banned.
In 2015, two members of France’s parliament issued a report recommending the sport be regulated. But France’s government subsequently banned events using a cage with strikes on the ground.
The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) says it marks the first step towards "integrating the sport into the French sports ecosystem".
"We put our global MMA expertise at the disposal of the French authorities to make this process a collective construction," added senior executive vice president and chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein.
"We will closely follow the progress of the consultation period and pay particular attention to the respect of the integrity of MMA and preservation of its rules by the host federation."
The news opens up the possibility of a UFC event being held in France. Some top level MMA fighters come from France, including Bellator and UFC veteran Cheick Kongo, and UFC heavyweight star Francis Ngannou.
Here in Ireland, Sport Ireland does not yet officially recognise the MMA governing body, the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA). The sport currently remains self-regulated and does not receive state funding or oversight.
Bellator 217 took place back in February at the 3Arena in Dublin, with the event airing on the Paramount network, DAZN and Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland.