I was particularly disappointed to learn that the European Judo Union (EJU) has taken the decision to cancel their European Championships event, which was to be held in Glasgow’s Emirates Arena this coming April, purely because it was to be sponsored by the UFC. The British Judo Association (BJA) had agreed a landmark sponsorship deal with the world’s premier mixed martial arts company, a very fitting partnership you would think, unless you are in charge at the EJU that is. Europe’s governing Judo body released the following statement on their website:
‘The European Judo Union has come to the realisation that the British Judo Association does not fit the EJU criteria to host the EJU flagship event.
The BJA had entered into a sponsorship agreement which did not meet the EJU values. BJA persisted in this, notwithstanding that it had been warned on a number of occasions that this arrangement was unacceptable to the EJU, which has a right under the event contract to approve or disapprove any sponsorships of EJU events.
In their several e-mails and telephone conversations the BJA refereed to a loss of funding. In addition, the BJA missed the agreed deadline to pay the event license fee, which is also a breach of contract.
Taking all of the above into consideration, and given the limited time to the staging of the European Championships, in order to protect the interests of the EJU national federations and European judoka, EJU Executive Committee have unanimously taken the decision to withdraw the event from Glasgow’.
This forced cancellation of the sponsorship deal with the UFC in conjunction with the news that the French Judo Federation has banned instructors from teaching MMA appears to be a move, and a petty one in my opinion, from the sports hierarchy to safeguard Judo as a discipline in its own right. Senior Vice President and General Manager UFC EMEA, David Allen commented:
“We love to see sport thrive and athletes prosper, which is why the UFC prides itself on supporting all combat sports both mixed and individual disciplines. Our aim was to help Judo reach a new audience, increase promotion, help to sell tickets and create a buzz around the European judo Championships. It is disappointing to see that the European Judo Union cannot see the benefits of collaboration and celebration of all sports.”
I can only echo David’s sentiments; the EJU’s single minded decision to oppose the UFC’s involvement in their sport could do more harm than good. I can understand if there was concerns from within the EJU that by associating themselves with the UFC they are inadvertently supporting another form of combat discipline and that they could lose numbers as a consequence. However judo plays a fundamental part in mixed martial arts and the BJA should have been commended, not chastised, for scoring such a high profile and worldwide brand as a partner.
The EJU should not fear the emergence of MMA, instead they should be embracing it and shouting from the rooftops that one of the UFC’s biggest stars and most successful champions, Ronda Rousey, is a Judoka and an Olympic level one at that.
Through Ronda’s involvement with the UFC she has raised the profile of Judo beyond anything the EJA could have done. Ronda has shown the world that Judo is a legitimate and effective form of combat that is the foundation of one of the world’s greatest fighters and champions. If only the EJU realised that there is no better marketing tool for Judo than Ronda Rousey by way of the UFC, Glasgow would still have the honour of hosting such a prestigious sporting event.