A juggernaut of world sport, the UFC is coming to France for the first time with an event in Paris this Saturday evening (live on RMC Sport 2). Before this historic meeting, and for all those who will discover the phenomenon on this occasion, RMC Sport explains everything about the biggest MMA organization on the planet.
What is MMA?
MMA, or mixed martial arts in its French version, is a combat sport that brings together the different disciplines of the genre: English boxing, Thai boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, etc. The fight can take place standing, which is called striking with the use of fists and feet, or on the ground with the various grappling techniques. In France, where this discipline has long been criticized because of the cage and ground strikes, its practice in competition was only legalized in the spring of 2020.
What is the UFC?
Born in November 1993 with a first event in Denver, Colorado, on the idea of businessman Art Davie and Brazilian fighter Rorion Gracie, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) began as a tournament between different martial arts specialists without weight categories or many rules. Long banned in many countries and American states, the organization had to structure itself to gain credibility and offer a face of mainstream sport. A time close to bankruptcy, the UFC has reinvented itself to become the main private organization of MMA fights across the planet.
Its pay-per-view sales now beat those of boxing in the United States. It is the sports organization that has gained the most fans in recent years, +40% in 2021, and is breaking record after record in terms of income (best year in 2021 ahead of 2020, when it was the first in the world to return to business after the outbreak of the pandemic). Proof of what it has become in almost thirty years of existence, it was sold for 4 billion dollars to the WME-IMG group in the summer of 2016. Its fights are organized in an octagon surrounded by a grid and fighters must wear light gloves (just over 100 grams) and a standardized outfit (no shoes, no too long shorts or pants, no t-shirt).
How do you win a fight?
Fights in the UFC take place on a simple format: three rounds of five minutes each, with a minute of rest between each round, or five rounds for fights for the title and those in the main event (main fight) of a event even if they are not for a belt. To win, you have to knock out your opponent, make him give up via a submission hold or cause a referee stoppage (TKO). A corner can also decide to throw in the towel.
If no one manages to win before the end, the decision is up to the three judges who obey the rules of the system already present in boxing. The idea? Each round is judged independently with 10 points for the winner of the round and 9 for the loser. A judge may also decide to give a 10-8 if one of the two fighters has totally dominated a round. At the end, whoever has pocketed the most rounds (two for a fight in three, three for a fight in five) is declared the winner.
What sockets are prohibited?
In its early days, the UFC had a slogan that announced color: “There are no rules.” It wasn’t exactly true. Participants in the first event of the future great organization were not allowed bites, blows in the private parts (which will be rehabilitated from UFC 2 before being removed again later) and fingers in the eyes volunteers to push as hard as possible and hurt. The rest was open bar. But the need to give credibility to the sport in order to be accepted pushed it to be regulated until the introduction in 2001 of the “unified rules of MMA”.
With the latter, there are today more than thirty prohibitions which can be worth points in less and/or a disqualification: the fighters do not have the right to bite, to pinch, to spit, to attack private parts, putting fingers in eyes, mouth or nose, kicking or kneeling an opponent on the head on the ground, pulling hair, hitting the back of the head , manipulating small joints (twisting fingers or toes), elbowing the spine, headbutting, downward knocking with the point of the elbow, hitting or grabbing throat, grabbing the collarbone, hitting the opponent’s kidney with the heel, knocking an opponent to the ground on the neck or head, grabbing his opponent’s shorts, hanging on the cage or again to trample an opponent on the ground.
How many categories are there?
The UFC started with a tournament without weight classes. But over time, and always this need to gain credibility, things have changed a lot. There are now eight categories for men, from flies (56.6 kilos maximum) to heavy (120.2 kilos maximum) including roosters, feathers, light, welterweight, medium and heavy- light. Among women, who joined the UFC in 2013 only behind the media, popular and sporting phenomenon Ronda Rousey, four categories are on the program from straws (52.1 kilos maximum) to feathers (65.7 kilos maximum), category which lack of fighters today, including flies and roosters.
How much do fighters earn?
Freelance workers who sign contracts – renegotiable – for a defined number of fights with a fixed amount for each appearance in the octagon, UFC fighters are paid according to their experience, their notoriety and their prize list. With several scales according to the status of each. That reserved for newcomers gives a first fight at 10 + 10, including 10,000 dollars to fight, 10,000 dollars in the event of victory. A total from which taxes and staff emoluments (coaches, manager) must be deducted. The more your career progresses in the right direction, the more the contracts gain in thickness.
Up to the ladder of top ranked, stars and champions, to which the French star Ciryl Gane now belongs, which goes up to several hundred thousand dollars (there is no more victory bonus at this level but you can take a percentage of pay-per-view sales in the United States if you fight for a title or if you have negotiated it). The biggest star in UFC history, Irishman Conor McGregor, for his part, moves into a multi-million dollar sphere every time he steps into the cage. We do not forget the bonuses distributed by the bosses: 50,000 dollars to fighters who sign the “fight of the evening” or the “performance of the evening” at each event.
Who are the best French people in the UFC?
New in the great organization of MMA, with a fight for the Paris card obtained in the last days before the event, William Gomis will be the twenty-fourth French representative to climb into the octagon of the UFC (men and women combined) . Only one has managed to hang a belt around his waist: Ciryl Gane, interim champion in August 2021 with his victory over Derrick Lewis. Unfortunately, “Bon Gamin” will fail in the quest for the undisputed heavyweight title a few months later against Francis Ngannou.
Headliner of UFC Paris, where he will face the powerful and endearing Tai Tuivasa, Gane remains the superstar of his discipline in our country, more popular on Instagram than Teddy Riner or Tony Yoka, the other great stars of combat sports . He will be accompanied by four other Frenchmen this Saturday at Bercy: Nassourdine Imavov (the only other ranked in a category for men, twelfth for the means), the former soldier Benoît Saint-Denis, Farès Ziam and William Gomis.
But there is a lack of people, starting with the best current French fighter, by far, Manon Fiorot, seventh in the flyweight rankings who will face number one Katlyn Chookagian at the end of October at UFC 280 and who will be fast approaching her title fight target against champion Valentina Shevchenko in the event of victory. A fight which was to take place in Paris but which had to be postponed because “The Beast” (his nickname) withdrew, hit in the knee. He will also be missed by Taylor Lapilus, who came to the UFC six-seven years ago and who signed a contract to return to the organization but had to skip the party due to a hand injury. . Party postponed, therefore, for the one who is also a consultant for RMC Sport.