Where Is MMA Illegal and Why Is MMA Illegal There? (2023)

Are you wondering where MMA is illegal and why MMA is illegal there?

In this article, we’ll look at where MMA (mixed martial arts) is illegal and why MMA is illegal there, countries where MMA isn’t illegal but isn’t recognized as an official sport, and countries where MMA is only illegal in certain states, provinces, or areas.

Where Is MMA Illegal and Why Is MMA Illegal There? (Countries Where MMA Is Illegal)

MMA is only illegal in Norway and Iran.

Amateur MMA was legalized in 2019 after the Norwegian Sports Federation (Norges Idrettsforbund – NIF) accepted the Norwegian Combat Federation’s (Norges Kampsportforbund – NKF) application.

However, professional MMA is still illegal in Norway due to government prejudice against it, which views it as barbaric and something that happens underground.

Not just MMA though, in 1982, Norway introduced a knockout law that prohibited all sports where victory or points could be scored by knockout. This was lifted 34 years later in 2016, which legalized professional boxing. Many feel MMA is the next to be legalized, but it’s yet to happen.

MMA is illegal in Iran due to their belief that it’s not a traditional martial art (like wrestling), its ties to gambling, and its violent nature.

As recently as December 2021, the Iranian Embassy released a statement concerning Iranian MMA athletes participating in an event in Khankhendi City, Azerbaijan, which said, “It is not officially recognized and is among the banned competitions (MMA), “this type of combat has no federation in Iran. Those involved in this field operate secretly and illegally.”

Where and Why Is MMA Not Legally Recognized as a Sport?

While not illegal, Cuba, North Korea, the Republic of Ireland, Iceland, India, and Thailand haven’t legalized MMA and therefore don’t recognize MMA as a sport:

For fear of losing their best boxers, the Cuban government won’t legalize MMA. It was only in April 2022 that boxing was legalized in Cuba, so it’ll likely be a while before MMA is legalized.

North Korea
Very little information about North Korea is available, but with the sport of MMA being only 3 decades old and there being no information about MMA in the country, it’s highly likely North Korea doesn’t recognize MMA as a sport.

The Republic of Ireland
MMA isn’t recognized as a sport in Ireland, meaning MMA is self-regulated and doesn’t receive any government aid or organizational measures such as health and safety protocols.

Founded in 2015, the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) is the main regulatory body in Ireland attempting to develop amateur MMA and get MMA recognized as a sport.

IMMAA feels there’s an old boy’s network within Sport Ireland that won’t recognize MMA as an official sport due to snobbery and being stuck in their old ways. Sport Ireland has rejected and deflected several of IMMAA’s applications.

MMA in Iceland isn’t illegal, but there aren’t any laws permitting it. MMA isn’t recognized as an official sport in Iceland which means there isn’t a government sanctioning body.

MMA isn’t illegal in India but it’s not recognized as a sport. In 2016, the All India MMA Federation (MMAFI) was founded and registered under the Central Government of India as a non-profit federation for MMA.

MMAFI sanctions professional MMA bouts by ensuring health and safety protocols, as well as organizing amateur MMA events, and managing the licensing of fighters, promoters, and officials.

In 2012, the Sports Authority of Thailand banned MMA, deeming the sport too brutal, hurting the image of muay Thai, and violating Thailand’s 1999 Boxing Law.

However, it was scare tactics, as there’s never been any law actually passed in Thailand that says MMA is illegal.

To prove this, DARE Championship continued to host MMA events in Thailand, and One Championship held its first MMA event there in 2016. As of 2022, MMA events are still held.

As it stands, there aren’t any laws making MMA illegal in Thailand, but MMA isn’t recognized as an official sport as a way to protect the national sport of muay Thai.

Is MMA Illegal in France?

MMA is no longer illegal in France after it was legalized in 2020.

MMA was banned in France in 2016 due to the dangers of the sport, caused by a lack of regulation. 

Another reason, controversially, is that the French government banned MMA because the French Judo Federation didn’t want French students to choose MMA over judo, meaning France may lose their talent and reputation as one of the best judo countries.

It was also for business reasons. Judo is very popular in France, where more people practice it than in Japan, and legalizing MMA would make many judo schools lose money.

However, 4 years later, France legalized MMA after the French Boxing Federation was chosen as the committee to regulate the sport.

In a big step for French MMA, the first UFC event was held in Paris at the Accor Arena on September 3, 2022, in front of 15,405 fans.

Is MMA Illegal In Canada? (By Province)

Prizefighting has been illegal in Canada since 1934, but in 2013, Bill S-209 was passed in Canada which meant MMA was now an exception alongside boxing, and could now be legally regulated and sanctioned, as determined by each Canadian province.

There are 10 provinces and 3 territories in Canada. Under Bill S-209, MMA is now legal in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Northwest Territories.

MMA remains illegal as prize fighting in the following Canadian provinces and territories: Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Yukon, and Nunavut.

What States Is MMA Illegal In? (USA)

MMA is legal in all 50 US states after New York became the last US state to legalize MMA in 2016.

While MMA is legal in all 50 states, it’s only regulated in 49 out of 50. Alaska is the only US state not to regulate MMA, as the state doesn’t have a State Athletic Commission.

The Bottom Line

So, where is MMA (mixed martial arts) illegal and why is MMA illegal there?

There are only 2 countries where MMA is illegal: Norway and Iran. 

In Norway, it relates to their previous knockout law which made illegal all combat sports where winning by knockout was possible. They view MMA as barbaric and have a prejudice against it.

In Iran, MMA is illegal because it’s viewed as a nontraditional martial art but more so because of MMA’s ties to gambling and its violent nature.

There are 6 countries where MMA isn’t illegal but isn’t considered a recognized sport or has any laws permitting its activity. Those countries are Cuba, North Korea, the Republic of Ireland, Iceland, India, and Thailand.

The reason these 6 countries haven’t recognized MMA as a sport is that MMA is only 30 years old and politics are extremely slow. It’s also because some governments are stuck in their ways, have a prejudice against MMA, or simply because they feel MMA isn’t that popular in the country.

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