SPORT BUSINESS OBSERVATORY – While the UFC announces that it will land at the Accor Arena in France on September 3 with a hexagonal event, the other martial arts are trying to remain visible and invincible.
Souad Soulimani has been a member of the Sport Business Observatory since 2016. She is the founder of MediaSpoliS, specializing in media education and the production of content for women leaders, and President of Radio Déclic, which gives working-class residents a voice on important societal issues. The Sport Business Observatory is the think tank of the company In&Sport, whose mission is to provide analysis and decoding of the development of sport, both in its economic and social dimensions.
In the history of martial arts, Muay Thai is considered a resistance and seduces in France and far beyond with dedicated athletes who are both boxers and organizers. It remains to be seen whether this economic model, and more broadly the organization of European sport, will be able to cope with the UFC machinery that already seems to be carrying everything in its path. Everything but the passion and determination that drives these modern gladiators, determined to continue the fight, for a Muay Thru that mixes tradition, values and business, and that has no leitmotif other than resistance and resilience against the Er-Image World Champion Madani Rahmani or Youssef Boughanem, who are scheduled for a gala on June 25th in Fléron near Liège.
The first UFC arrives in France. He is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated on European soil, having aroused passions and fueled frustrations over the past decade. For several months the light seems to be at the end of the road and the communication plan has been launched with the pre-sale of tickets scheduled for June 24th, which will be a predictable and prepared success.
Flashback, more than 10 years back. 7 September 2007. Press conference room in London. UFC 75. While all the journalists focus on Rampage and Dan Henderson… then Cro Cop. One athlete has yet to speak. I hurry to pick up the microphone to question Cheick Kongo, our French law representative. I ask him what this fight against Mirko Cro-Cop means to him and at the same time I ask Dana White, President of the UFC, when is a UFC in France so close to London?
The French champion from Elsewhere the Fists reacts with composure and humility. “ It’s a fight like any other and I prepared to win “. He’s actually going to win. As for Dana White, he’s going to tell me We think of France, it would be great to be able to come to Paris. It’s in the works “.
It took fifteen years and many adventures to complete this project. Today the boss of the UFC answers: “Yes, it’s true, we’ve been working on France for so long and that makes this September 3 event all the more unique. We had to invest a lot of money and do a lot of lobbying, but that was it. See you on September 3rd, it’s going to be amazing.
In contrast, other events continue and one discipline in particular continues its journey with strong values and champions with life paths worthy of Van Damme films and putting sport at the heart of societal issues.
Muay Thai, the reference
Sarguably the discipline closest to combat reality, and a tough contact sport with a strong cultural heritage. Undeterred, Madani Rahmani is organizing his next World Championship himself and as if that wasn’t enough, he invites a certain Youssef Boughanem to the fight card. The man with more than 300 fights and 23 world titles returns home, to his country in Belgium, where he will share the score with the organizer of the evening with his 85 fights for 81 wins in the ring tonight. We do not find these awards on the UFC posters. They don’t exist for one simple reason: you can become a UFC champion in less than 5 fights and you don’t have to travel the world to assert your supremacy.
In contrast, Muay Thai favors old-fashioned values, preparation for the hard road, and total dedication to a passion and childhood dream. When I swap with Madani for the first time, he is in Thailand at the training camp. He’s going there at his own expense but that doesn’t seem to bother him too much as we quickly understand for the Belgian native that the essentials are elsewhere.
He doesn’t let on the harshness of the victims and the distance to his relatives and explains to me that it was people like Dida Diafat or Kamel Jemel who gave him the desire to realize himself through Muay Thai. No cameras and no voice for whoever chose Osman Yigin to monitor his preparations, the man with 16 world titles and 28 European titles.
A raw, peaceful discourse that clings to its reality. That of a top athlete struggling to make a living from his sport, to which he has devoted himself tirelessly for the last 15 years. He also proudly commemorates the fight of Youssef Boughanem who “ a star here “, holder of all possible and imaginable titles in the discipline and with whom he organized a free Muay Thai class for children this Sunday, June 19, after Youssef obtained a new victory at the Lumpini Stadium on May 28 . Last.
All the children, girls and boys, who went home with their photo, signed poster and a smile that gives strength.
That they continue their passion and make their childhood dream come true.
Neither Madani nor Youssef will forget this legacy: “ If we can send a message to young people and show that if we want to get there, we give ourselves the means to make it possible, then we have won a great victory “. If this is certainly not a victory at the Ring, it is probably worth much more, since its impact on the young generations on the Belgian territory, in the districts of Liège and far beyond, through those few lines on the Figaro that will , strong is definitely a reflection of these inspiring and impactful lives of young fathers and great athletes serving their sport and wider society.