Here are the facts. PFL is a still young MMA organization, launched in 2018 with the ambition to compete with the UFC. This welcome arrival should create in the medium term a real competition long absent in the queen organization, which will be exercised to the benefit of fighters who will have better working conditions. Eager to open up to the promising French market in the discipline, the PFL held a first evening on Saturday at the Zenith in Paris.
Among the local signatures there is Cédric Doumbé. A thirty-one-year-old French-Cameroonian kickboxer, of an exceptional level, who began his transition to MMA three years ago. After a gradual rise in power, he fought as a main event. His opponent was Jordan Zebo, a promising twenty-three-year-old fighter. Doumbé, very talented in distribution, put an incredible psychological pressure on Zebo, with a lot of videos on social networks, going so far as to have a mattress delivered to the latter to rest after a knockout announced. It's still good-natured. Doumbé, more and more confident, asked the audience that on the night of the fight, be answered "You're dead!" after he had said "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 McGregor, the kings of trashtalk, have always been able to put limits to their provocations". The environment is rather favorable to this show: Daniel Woirin, coach whose athletes fighting in the UFC, Bellator in Oktagon or the Hexagon MMA, willingly confides to Le Figaro to be very happy with such an event and is delighted with the presence of PSG players and other artists in the room.
Caution with crowds
On the night of the fight, Doumbé entered the room with a mattress that read "Good night Jordan." We laugh heartily. The law of sport is hard: even if he was well prepared, said Jordan was extinguished after nine seconds of a blow half-hook half-uppercut splendid in the chin. During the post-fight interview in the octagon, Doumbé appealed with belated elegance to the public to show respect to Jordan Zebo, to follow him on social networks, to show him support, arguing that his teasing was only intended to promote the fight (successful goal) and that there was nothing personal. Close the ban, there is nothing to say about the substance of the statement. It was then that he revealed live that Fernand Lopez, the coach of his opponent and boss of the Management Factory team, had 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 Justice. Is revealing his private life in public and thus making him appear immediately before the court of the crowd, really the role of a sporting event? Does this moment of general excitement elevate anyone? Some MMA professionals confide to Le Figaro privately that this sequence shocked them. It is an open secret that Fernand Lopez is hated by many people because of highly contested methods. In "off", several other coaches, fighters and figures of French-speaking MMA say they are delighted that Lopez has been displayed in this way. A soil expert who has worked with Lopez, meanwhile, finds that Doumbé has shown "courage": "It will clean up the environment. In a month we don'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 Zenith to bring Zebo to the hospital, shouting "Jordan, you're dead!" sneering in group. "Jordan, you're dead!" was recently chanted during a concert in Nantes. Bertrand Amoussou is a veteran who has worked hard for the legalization of the discipline in France: "Between what we say and what is understood there is sometimes a gap. Cedric is good-natured, there is no malice. But you have to be careful about the message you are getting across, it is not always well understood. Those who want to imitate him do not necessarily have the same education," he wisely declares. Sometimes you have to know how to restrain yourself.
Cédric Doumbé is probably not malicious, but what he creates can surpass him
Cédric Doumbé is probably not malicious, but what he creates can surpass him. Admittedly, apart from the episode Lopez, he has not exceeded the limits of chambering: nevertheless he believes that a simple message can stop at once a "valve session", he is wrong. The boundary between second and first degrees is not always clear for a young audience heated to white. Does the promotion of 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 make 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 ultra-experienced opponent in public teasing.
The case raises several questions. The PFL, understandably, has investments to make profitable. Nevertheless, the UFC proves that sport is sufficient in itself for MMA to confidently take the place it deserves in the French landscape. Should we, in order to maximize communication, accept that such an awkward spectacle takes place around the fighting? Is MMA intended to give game to packs, or to train teenagers to respect and discipline to make them adults? "We have recovered what we do not like in the football public," says an actor in the field. This audience did not arrive by chance, it was sought. The PFL was in good sporting standing, but also provided entertainment for an active audience on social networks, quick to turn their attention span into an act of purchase, especially via sports betting that sponsors fighters a lot. "Where does business stop and sport begin?" sums up a connoisseur of the field, made "uncomfortable" by Saturday's public.
This sport still has the potential to bring together in halls sociologies that no longer speak to each other anywhere: trendy urbanites, children from the suburbs, country people, sons from the mining basins of the North... Caution! MMA took a long time to be legalized, we should not lose in a few events the work done in several years, for wanting to move too fast or make a little more money. MMA doesn't need scandal to grow; Its actors should be responsible.