After many years of criticism, mixed martial arts (MMA) has finally found a place in France. The practice of MMA, approved since February 2020 on French soil, has just experienced a leap forward with the possession of the Bellator 248 at the Accor Arena – Paris Bercy, on Saturday 10 October. An evening marked with a milestone for this sport.
From our special correspondent at the Accor Arena – Paris Bercy,
Too dangerous, too brutal, too little sport … A few years ago, MMA was banned in France, reduced to savagery, forced to practice secretly and in the shadows. Times have changed. Encountering the relentless growth of this martial art worldwide, the authorities and the Ministry of Sports have ended up giving up ballast. And MMA was finally approved in France in 2020.
After MMA Grand Prix for Vitry-sur-Seine On Thursday, October 8, the first international MMA event was held on Saturday, October 10 at the Accor Arena – Paris Bercy. French fans had an agreement in the gym with Bellator, the second largest MMA organization in the world.
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Fights, floods and an old dream come true
For this Bellator 248, the official name of the event, the stands were very sparse, requires Covid-19. Due to sanitary rules, only a thousand spectators were allowed. But despite an organization that at times sought each other out – including a hiccup in programming, with a 90-minute forced break before the final two and main fights, some boxers had tested positive for coronavirus – and this reduced help, the curious amateurs replied and connoisseurs of mixed martial arts present.
The comedians of the stands too. In the absence of large crowds, we could easily hear the valves bursting from the stands. The audience laughed when a spectator shouted “Come on Mr. Pokora!” to a fighter with multiple tattoos, such as the singer. Another comical encouragement: “pull your hair out!” launched at Cheick Congo during his fight against Timothy Johnson … who has almost no more hair on the stone. Bercy laughed there too.
Bercy, a special arena for Lucie Bertaud, one of the main characters in Bellator 248. After his victory over Maguy Berchel, the flight weight did not hide his great satisfaction. One of his old desires has been met, five years after his debut in MMA: “When I started boxing as a 15-year-old, I dreamed of fighting in Bercy and Vegas. I never did that in boxing, and in the end, it was MMA that allowed me to do it: I fought in Vegas, and I finally managed to fight in Bercy. I waited 20 years to get there. If it’s not a sign of perseverance, honestly! ”
France, “the world’s last frontier” in MMA
“It’s wonderful to fight here in Paris,” adds Fabacary Diatta, featherweight of Dominique Wooding. For him, it is even “a joy at phew” that could finally be achieved in MMA in France. The French, who made their classes in the bay, “climbed in the line to fight here, at Bellator.” The public was able to appreciate his style with accents from West Africa. And with good reason: Fabacary Diatta is of Senegalese descent, and his grandfather practiced Senegalese wrestling. “Maybe that’s how I get used to lifting my opponents and throwing them away!” He laughs.
Scott Coker liked his performance. The president of Bellator sees French fighters very positively: nostalgic for Jérôme Le Banner’s skill in K-1, talents in France are, according to him, very promising. And what a satisfaction for the leader that before his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC, the largest MMA league in the world) “his” Bellator opens the doors to this discipline in France: “France is the last frontier. “Before we opened it up there. We opened MMA in Israel, Hungary … New York and Toronto opened slowly. But in the rest of the world it works now. For me, France is the last frontier.”
This Bellator 248 is the result of three years of work, Scott Coker recalls. Lucie Bertaud welcomes, especially with this difficult health context. Practicing MMA in France is a big step forward for fans and the approximately 40,000 licensees in the country. No need to go into exile abroad to flourish. “I had to live in the United States for a year and a half to get opportunities,” recalls Lucie Bertaud. Those who succeed him no longer need to go through it.
“The train is running”
In France, the Supreme Audiovisual Council is still blocking the issue of MMA. It is still not possible to watch matches on television, except in a difficult way (like the RMC Sport channel, which broadcast MMA at night while broadcasting from Luxembourg). Thus, this Bellator 248 was visible in France on the internet via YouTube.
But all the protagonists of the event on October 10 are convinced that this barrier will soon break again. The Ministry of Sports ended up changing its mind about MMA. “We could no longer ban a discipline that is the convergence of other martial arts approved for their part,” argues Lucie Bertaud. “I think the CSA will have changed its mind in a few months. Next time we come, we will create a show dedicated to French television, ”adds Scott Coker.
Next time may be in the summer of 2021. Bellator is working on a new meeting in Bercy in the middle of next year depending on developments in the Covid-19 pandemic. Scott Coker also tells us that we must look towards Marseille, a rich pool of warriors. “The train is running. We can no longer stop it, ”swears Lucie Bertaud.