“The UFC is a war machine” warns Fernand Lopez, the “Mr. MMA” in France. The world’s strongest federation of Mma (Mixed Martial Arts) was considering of organizing its first conferences in France at the finish of 2020 after the legalization of combating in France. But the pandemic has shaken up plans and delayed the touchdown of the UFC machine ( Ultimate Fighting Championship ) in our nation. Opulent, fashionable throughout the world with the best fighters planet in her pockets, she intends to place down her baggage in 2021 in our nation, as one of her two bosses confirms remotely and completely to us, Lawrence epstein.
How is a robust US sports activities league like yours weathering the well being disaster?
LAWRENCE EPSTEIN. I simply went by means of, on a private degree, the strangest yr of my 20-plus-year UFC profession. We would by no means have thought, and I converse for folks throughout the world, that we may expertise such a factor in our lifetime and for what considerations us, an interruption of competitions.
You had been the first in the world in the spring to return to aggressive sports activities, not simply MMA. Why ?
It was extremely vital for us to be the first, in all sports activities, to renew our competitions. We did it of course in a sanitary bubble and behind closed doorways. But from the second we had been requested to remain at house, we had just one ambition: to return to fight to indicate that we’re leaders in our discipline.
Did you actually observe all the sanitary guidelines?
Of course. Since the begin of the pandemic, we have now carried out tons of and tons of of checks and fewer than 1% have examined optimistic, 0.9% to be precise. In comparability, the NBA may be very proud to announce that she has solely 8.8% positivity fee. Obviously, we are going to proceed to be vigilant. We don’t take into account the combat towards this virus to be received.
PODCAST. MMA, what legalization will change
MMA with out an viewers, what does that imply?
We have been compelled to undergo it like all sports activities in 2020. But it isn’t a nice scenario for a sport which feeds on the ambiance of the public like ours. We hope that viewers will have the ability to return to our theaters in the second half of 2021. It isn’t just as much as us: the evolution of the pandemic will dictate it. But we’re calling for it. Like everybody else, I believe …
Your co-chair Dana White is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, one of the few in sport. Does the UFC assist him?
No, clearly. With us, all political and spiritual sensibilities are accepted, everyone seems to be free of their convictions and opinions. The UFC is an apolitical league that takes no stand for anybody and whose solely vocation is to prepare sports activities occasions and fights. On the different hand, we don’t stop anybody from having their very own political orientations. As for Dana White’s assist, it’s purely private and the end result of an extended friendship that goes again greater than 20 years between him and Donald Trump. She’s solely hiring him and never the UFC.
What did you assume of the footage of the Capitol invasion?
It was unhappy, disappointing, something we never wanted to see. People died ( Editor’s word: 5 folks died ) and it is horrible. It was a daunting second that we are able to solely condemn.
When will the UFC maintain its first assembly in France?
Before the begin of the epidemic we had deliberate to come back by the finish of 2020. Obviously the virus has known as every thing into query. I can guarantee you that as quickly as the alternative arises, as quickly as Covid-19 permits us to take action, the UFC will come to France. I hope it will likely be as quickly as attainable. I personally love France, I actually wish to come to you and the UFC can also be very eager as a result of it is an important marketplace for us. We are optimistic that this will likely be attainable earlier than the finish of this yr 2021. We are very enthusiastic about this concept.
Is France working in the proper course for the growth of MMA?
Definitely! France has taken issues into its personal palms to acknowledge our sport. Each nation has accomplished it in its personal means however France has labored for the good of MMA and I’m delighted. Televisions now have the right to broadcast fights under certain conditions. It is clearly an excellent resolution. 2020 hasn’t all the time been a superb yr, however for the growth of MMA in France, it has been fairly incredible.
France appears to be opening its doorways to you …
So a lot the higher! All this favors the arrival of the UFC in a short time now in your nation. We know that we have now many followers in France who’re trying ahead to us. Reassure them, we won’t overlook them.
What ought to we anticipate on the first evening of the UFC in France?
Above all, we should be sure that all sanitary measures are taken in order that the public can come and uncover us safely. This will likely be our first rule. The ambition is to welcome 20,000 folks for this nice first. Then it will likely be a incredible occasion with all the know-how of the UFC, the finest fighters in the world. A reside UFC expertise can’t be forgotten, belief me. You will see it quickly.
Will we see the two French fighters Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane in Paris?
Everything is feasible, sure. They are both huge champions who can each declare the world heavyweight belt. You are very fortunate in France to have two athletes of this caliber.