IMMAF backs legal challenge to French state over MMA ban

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) is supporting the Commission Française de Mixed Martial Arts (CFMMA) in a legal challenge to France’s recent decree banning the sport of MMA.

The claim was lodged on 22 December 2016 before the Council of State, the highest court in France.

On 3 October, the French State published a decree, officially taken on security grounds. Although previously never technically illegal in France, this decree explicitly forbade MMA competition by declaring some of its core techniques illegal – namely, elbow strikes, ground strikes and the combat enclosure.

The decree was issued at the same time as a detailed parliamentary report into MMA in France reached its culmination. The report had concluded with a recommendation for the recognition and regulation of the sport, ignored by the decree.

CFMMA’s recourse is concerned with the procedural irregularities of the decree, the freedom for each sports man and woman to practice the sport of his/her choice, the ill-founded “security” measures forbidding MMA imposed by the decree and the misuse of powers on the part of the French State.

Lawyer on the case, Mrs Tatiana VASSINE, a specialist in sports law who contributed her legal expertise to the parliamentary report on MMA, commented:

“Challenging this decree is a duty as it causes unprecedented damage to the freedom of people to practice the sport of their choice in a country in which human rights are revered. MMA is a sport and must be treated as one, without any discrimination based on subjective and unjustified reasons. One positive result of this decree is that MMA will be able to defend its position on equal legal terms and challenge its detractors.”

IMMAF President, Kerrith Brown, said:

“IMMAF is concerned with the development of safe structures for the practice of MMA worldwide. Where the sport remains unrecognised, unregulated and unsupported, its participants remain at risk – as with any sport. In light of the sport’s growth and popularity, it is the social responsibility of governments and their sports administrations to enable the same protective structures and benefits as afforded participants of other recognised sports. To abdicate this responsibility amounts to discrimination. For the French State to issue a ban on the sport constitutes an unnecessary and aggressive assault on civil liberties.

“This assault on MMA’s practitioners echoes a familiar pattern globally, in which we are repeatedly seeing MMA’s bid for recognition blocked by the vested commercial interests of other martial arts organisations. IMMAF will continue to fight this injustice and prejudice that marginalises our sport’s practitioners and undermines its safe development.”

CFMMA President and IMMAF Board Director, Bertrand Amoussou, said:

“I have confidence in the ultimate success of our recourse. MMA is a natural development in martial arts history, which cannot be stopped. It is rather the position of the ministry which should be condemned, for trying at all costs to forbid a discipline authorised in almost all countries of the world, for the vested interests of particular groups.
“The work of the CFMMA, under the banner of IMMAF, promotes the safe and regulated practice of recreational and amateur MMA which should on no account be a cause of concern to governmental authorities. Our priority is the safety of our members and a mandate must be given to us so that we are enabled to ensure this under the best conditions.”