Passionate French Fan Base Should Make Recurring Trip to Country Regular Occurrence for the UFC

May 16, 2024
5 days

UFC CEO Dana White fought for acceptance of mixed martial arts with every governing body around the globe. While White made progress quickly with many states after making rule changes along the way, there were two major holdouts. New York was the last state in the United States to legalize the sport.

New York finally made the sport legal in 2016. But acceptance in France took longer. Despite several French fighters competing around the world in various promotions, the sport wasn’t legalized in the country until January 2020.

White has made it a point to make Paris a regular trip for the organization since the sport was legalized. The UFC first went to Paris, France on September 3, 2022.  MMAfighting latest news shows that White said the UFC will be hosting an event in France on September 28 of this year at Accor Arena.

With other promotions frequently holding events in France, it is important for the UFC to maintain a footprint of its own.

French Stars Have Grown in Prominence

Since the doors have opened up, there have been plenty of French fighters making a major impact in the UFC. Manon Fiorot recently beat Erin Blanchfield in a women’s flyweight title eliminator in June. Fiorot will likely face the winner of Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso later this year to try and become the first undisputed French champion.

Cyril Gane was the first French fighter to capture interim gold at heavyweight. He beat respected UFC veteran Derrick Lewis to earn a shot at unifying the belt against Francis Ngannou. However, Ngannou made an unamusing decision to grab the belt.

Lightweight standout Benoît Saint Denis has moved the needle as well. He has spectacular finishing power and is a veteran of the French special forces.

Gane Made First Trip to Paris Special

Gane’s rise to the top of the heavyweight division made him a perfect selection to headline the first-ever French UFC card. He was coming off the loss to Ngannou but had only lost one professional fight. When Gane was paired with Tai Tuivasa, who was on a five-fight winning streak, fireworks ensued.

Gane’s striking was on point for the entire match. Just when Gane looked like he was going to coast to a win, Tuivasa floored him in the third round. However, Gane recovered quickly. He eventually hit Tuivasa with so many body kicks that the Australian couldn’t keep up.

The fight card featured plenty of action for anyone interested in MMA latest updates. Six fights ended by decision, five by KO/TKO, and one by submission. Reviews of the fight were strong from fans and at the box office.

According to the UFC, an economic study about the event said that the UFC’s presence generated $33.4 million in revenue for the Paris region. The first fight card produced an attendance figure of just over 15,400 fans.

The gate for the event came in at $3.2 million. While Gane’s presence was important, this also featured a fight between former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and former title challenger Marvin Vettori.

Second French Card Also Called on Gane to Carry Things

When the UFC returned to Paris in September 2023, Gane was again called back to perform in a heavyweight main event after losing a title fight. This time, Gane sought to bounce back after losing to Jon Jones in a challenge for the vacant belt.

Gane faced off against Serghei Spivak, which was a major step down in competition. He would again pick up a knockout win, this time in the second round. This card would be notable for the number of entertaining finishes on the main event.

Five of the six fights on the main card ended inside the distance. The only fight that needed the judges’ scorecards was when Fiorot beat former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas via unanimous decision. The UFC’s second event in France ended up drawing 200 more fans than the first time, raising the attendance to 15,610.

As far as the gate in the arena, Gane vs Spivac brought in $4 million.

Hey Cyril, What Are You Doing in September?

Gane is stuck in what has become a messy heavyweight title picture. Jones is sitting out with an injury and wants his next fight to be a legacy against Stipe Miocic. English fighter Tom Aspinall is the interim champion.

But Aspinall doesn’t have a clear path forward. There isn’t much of a plan for Gane either. Placing Gane at the top of this card would likely make a lot of sense. Saint Denis is another fighter with a style that would make sense to headline a card.

Saint Denis is coming off a knockout loss to Dustin Poirier, but that shouldn’t do anything to stunt his momentum in his home country. Fiorot is unlikely to appear on the card. She is in line for a shot at the championship. Grasso and Shevchenko aren’t set to fight until later this year.

Will Visits to France Become More Frequent?

The UFC’s annual trip to France in September has been a nice tradition. However, the UFC may want to make at least one more trip as the promotion looks to expand outside of Apex. The UFC has made it clear that any site that hosts will have to pay fees for the promotion to host the event.

If French fans continue to come out to support the fights, they could continue to bring more events to the arena. If it goes that route, it will be interesting to see how the UFC adjusts to being in Europe. A recent UFC fight card was announced for Manchester, England, but the promotion set the fight times for 3 a.m. local time to cater to the viewing audience in the United States.

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By Dean McHugh.