MOOD – The recent PFL Paris was a very successful evening of MMA fights. Humanly, a little less.
Here are the facts. The PFL is a still young MMA organization, launched in 2018 with the ambition of competing with the UFC. This welcome arrival should create in the medium term real competition that has long been absent from the queen organization, which will benefit fighters who will have better working conditions. Eager to open up to the promising French market in the discipline, the PFL held its first evening at the Zénith in Paris on Saturday.
Among the local signings there is Cédric Doumbé. A thirty-one-year-old Franco-Cameroonian kickboxer of exceptional level who began his transition to MMA three years ago. After a gradual rise in power, he fought in the main event. His opponent was Jordan Zebo, a promising young fighter of twenty-three years old. Doumbé, very gifted in repartee, put incredible psychological pressure on Zebo, with the help of videos on social networks, going so far as to have a mattress delivered to the latter so that he could rest there after an announced knockout. It’s still good-natured. Doumbé, more and more confident, asked the public that on the evening of the fight, the answer would be “You are dead !» after he says “Jordan !». «It didn’t shock me, it was done in comedy» explains Bertrand Amoussou. Jérémy Bouhy, who works with international combat sports federations, recalls that “Mohammed Ali, Mike Tyson and Connor Mc Gregor, the kings of trashtalk, have always known how to set limits to their provocations“. The environment is rather favorable to this spectacle: Daniel Woirin, trainer whose athletes fight in the UFC, at Bellator at Oktagon or even at the Hexagon MMA, readily confides to the Figaro to be very happy with such an event and is delighted with the presence of PSG players and other artists in the room.
Be careful with crowds
On the evening of the fight, Doumbé entered the room with a mattress on which it was written “Good night Jordan“. We laugh heartily. The law of sport is harsh: even though he was well prepared, the said Jordan was knocked out after nine seconds with a splendid half-hook, half-uppercut blow to the chin. During the post-fight interview in the octagon, Doumbé belatedly elegantly called on the public to show respect to Jordan Zebo, to follow him on social media, to show him support, arguing that his teasing does not were only intended to promote the fight (successful objective) and that there was nothing personal. Shut the ban, there is nothing to say about the substance of the matter. It was then that he revealed live that Fernand Lopez, his opponent’s coach and team boss Management Factoryhad committed domestic violence.
Fernand Lopez’s behavior is morally reprehensible, but on this specific case (there are others in progress), his case has already been judged and he has been condemned by the courts. Revealing one’s private life in public and thus making him appear immediately before the mob court, is that really the role of a sporting event? Does this moment of general excitement elevate anyone? Some MMA professionals confide in Figaro privately that this sequence shocked them. It’s an open secret that Fernand Lopez is hated by many people because of his highly contested methods. In “off», several other coaches, fighters and figures of French-speaking MMA say they are delighted that Lopez has seen himself displayed in this way. A soil expert who worked with Lopez found that Doumbé demonstrated “courage»: «it will clean up the environment. In a month we won’t talk about it anymore, and we can come back to the fight.» Especially since according to him, much worse cases are coming out shortly. The fear of speaking under his name shows quite well the considerable power that Fernand Lopez has acquired.
Basically we can understand, but is the cage the place to settle scores? Another very uncomfortable scene, individuals filming the ambulance leaving the Zénith to take Zebo to the hospital, shouting “Jordan, you’re dead!» giggling as a group. “Jordan, you’re dead!» was chanted recently during a concert in Nantes. Bertrand Amoussou is a veteran who worked hard for the legalization of the discipline in France: “Between what is said and what is understood there is sometimes a gap. Cédric is good-natured, there is no malice. But you have to be careful about the message you send, it is not always well understood. Those who would like to imitate him do not necessarily have the same education» he declares wisely. Sometimes you have to know how to restrain yourself.
Cédric Doumbé is probably not malicious, but what he creates can exceed him
Cédric Doumbé is probably not malicious, but what he creates can exceed him. Certainly, apart from the Lopez episode, he has not gone beyond the limits of restraint: nevertheless he believes that a simple message can suddenly stop a “valve session“, he is wrong. The border between second and first degrees is not always clear for a white-hot young audience. Does promoting a fight justify all this? Cédric Doumbé is not the only one to blame. The PFL did not know how to set limits and complacently let its fighter do the show by providing him with a microphone. And above all, Jordan Zebo’s team left him alone without much help in terms of communication, facing an opponent who was ultra-experienced in public teasing.
The case raises several questions. The PFL, and we understand it, has investments to make profitable. However, the UFC proves that the sport is sufficient in itself for MMA to confidently take the place it deserves in the French landscape. To maximize communication, should we accept that such an uncomfortable spectacle takes place around the fights? Is MMA intended to give game to packs, or to train respect and discipline adolescents to make them adults? “We have recovered what we don’t like in the football public», Testifies an actor in the sector. This audience did not arrive by chance, it was sought. The PFL was of good sporting performance, but also provided entertainment for an active public on social networks, quick to transform their attention span into an act of purchase, in particular via sports betting which heavily sponsors the fighters. “Where does business end and sport begin?», summarizes a connoisseur of the sector, put “uncomfortable» by the public on Saturday.
This sport still has the potential to bring together in rooms sociologies that no longer speak to each other anywhere: trendy urbanites, children from the suburbs, country dwellers, sons of the mining areas of the North… Be careful! MMA took a long time to be legalized, we should not lose in a few events the work accomplished over several years, for wanting to move too quickly or to make a little more money. MMA doesn’t need scandal to grow; its actors should be responsible.