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France hosts historic MMA event with cage and Unified Rules, Sports Ministry fires back

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Last weekend, France hosted its first ever MMA event with a cage and United Rules.

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On September 19, 2015, Mixed Martial Arts took a major step in France when an event was hosted on the country's soil that featured the Unified Rules, as well as a cage. It was the first time that such an event took place in the country.

The event, World Warriors Fighting Championship (WWFC), utilized the MMA cage in a public event that featured police officers in attendance. They refrained from shutting the event down, even though they warned the promoter beforehand. It was a historic Saturday evening for the French MMA community.

The Unified Rules were implemented during the event, although elbow strikes were excluded.

"We always knew there was a loophole (in the law) but nobody took the risk until yesterday to go so far as to actually organize an MMA event with MMA rules in a cage," Commission Française de Mixed Martial Arts (CFMMA) president Bertrand Amoussou said. "This could have been stopped at any time but the police were informed and came only to witness the sportsmanship of MMA."

While MMA is not technically illegal in France, it is involved in a political battle with the French Judo Federation, which has made it nearly impossible for promoters to secure licensing for the caged enclosure or for strikes on the ground. However, the WWFC 4 set a new legal precedent for MMA in France and may encourage other promoters to hold such events.

The CFMMA later released an official statement on the event:

"For the first time an event reported to the authorities was held under the Unified Rules of MMA. This sets a legal precedent. We now expect a reaction from the government. However last night it was shown publicly that the fighting is regulated, structured and sanctioned; that the fighters are professionals trained in the various techniques, including those used on the ground; that the audience are people who attend in a spirit of friendly sportsmanship. It is for these reasons that the CFMMA requests again that the state and its highest representative, Francois Hollande, legislate to recognize the existence of this sports discipline, and for it to be permitted under federal guidelines."

Recently, the French Judo Federation banned all their coaches from teaching MMA. The Federation's president, Jean-Luc Rouge proclaimed MMA to be a "refuge for jihadists" and full of "guys that are stupid enough to kill each other in front of everyone in a cage." Rouge boasts a Federation of over 500,000 members, so it is likely that MMA's lengthy battle for legitimacy in France is far from over.

Thierry Braillard, Secretary of State for Sport in France, told "The Parisian" newspaper (h/t IMMAF) that the event was not recognized and that he "does not like to be ridiculed."

"I do not like cheating," Theirry Braillard stated. "I have also read provocations on social networks. I will not sit with my hands in my pockets, believe me. Our investigation will result perhaps in sanctions. We will do what it takes."