By: Farah Hannoun |
November 7, 2019 6:05 am
Fernand Lopez has played a big role in grooming some of the biggest talents in France.
Head coach of MMA Factory Paris, he trains the likes of UFC heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou and rising star Ciryl Gane. Lopez has also been recently assigned by European mass media conglomerate Vivendi as the matchmaker and sport strategist for the new Afro-French MMA promotion ARES Fighting Championship.
Lopez is aiming for ARES FC to be a hotbed for French and African talent, while also educating the masses, which would help the UFC make a smooth transition to those markets. With MMA now legalized in France effective 2020, ARES FC will be holding a show in France on Mar. 21.
But their first show, ARES FC 1, will take place in Dakar, Senegal on Dec. 14, and will feature African, French, and global talent, including UFC veterans Bryan Caraway, Ildemar Alcantara and Lukasz Sajewski.
According to Lopez, the event will stream live on CANAL +, Dailymotion, and UFC Fight Pass, where he hopes the event will reach 1.3 billion African homes, as well as 66 million French citizens.
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Few are happier to see the sport of MMA legalized in France than Lopez, who has been fighting to get the sport recognized for years. There’s only been one MMA event in France, World Warriors Fighting Championship Cage Encounter 4, which took place in September 2015 and featured current UFC light heavyweight contender Ion Cutelaba in the co-main event.
“Back then in September 2015, I did an MMA show in Paris, France, the only one MMA that ever took place in France,” Lopez told MMA Junkie. “But then the French authority, instead of helping to normalize MMA, had chosen to ban it for good. During the last four years, I have been relentless on that fight. Finally, the minister of sport decided to come in my gym and understand what MMA is. Since then, she decided to make MMA legal in France.”
ARES FC 1 will feature nine African fighters in an ever-growing market. The UFC currently has two Nigerian champions in middleweight champ Israel Adesanya and welterweight titleholder Kamaru Usman, and Lopez hopes that with ARES FC’s intended July show in Lagos, Nigeria will one day play host to a UFC event, featuring those UFC superstars and plenty of homegrown talent, too.
“We actually think that ARES will bring so much great talents from Africa,” Lopez said. “We intend to test the MMA markets in Africa, especially Nigeria as we are waiting for Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman. We want to educate the audience in France so they can welcome the UFC in France and Africa.”
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