On 26 June, UK Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport Hugh Robertson signed a statutory instrument which modified the 2003 Licensing Act, governing the licensing of sporting and entertainment events in England and Wales. Without recognizing MMA as a “sport”, the DCMS amended licensed activities to include any event that “combines boxing or wrestling with one or more martial arts.”
In contrast, responding to a question from a Deputy of the National Assembly, the French Sports Ministry stated on July 2: “Free Fight, or Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), takes place inside a cage and allows strikes against the opponent while on the ground. The policy of the Ministry has not changed and remains clear. The practice of MMA is not allowed and its events/shows are not permitted.”
The ban was reconfirmed despite lobbying of the French government by Zuffa LLC dba Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) of Las Vegas. Last year, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta called France a “massive opportunity” and said he was “encouraged that you’ll be eating croissants watching the UFC pretty soon.”
This past June, the New York State Assembly failed to lift the ban on professional MMA.
Shut out of France and New York, the UFC announced new plans to expand its offerings in the UK. UFC will be in London on 2 August as part of its “media tour”. The appearance coincides with the launch of a new UK broadcasting deal with BT Sports. Reports suggest the first UFC fight under the amended regulation is tentatively scheduled to take place October 26 in Manchester, England.