The UFC is the highest level of competition for MMA athletes, and the French sports fans are loving it. MMA is still one of the fastest-growing sports in France and is becoming increasingly ingrained in French culture. Betting on the sport is exceptionally popular, and there are even MMA-themed slot games. These games can be found at French casinos with a minimum deposit of €5. Part of the reason for the popularity growth is the success of French athletes in the octagon, elevating them to national superstar level. But who are the most popular French MMA stars that have competed in the UFC?

Ciryl Gane

The most popular French MMA fighter in history is Ciryl Gane. Gane was born in La Roche-sur-Yon in 1990 and quickly became a massive lover of all sports, playing football and basketball from a young age. However, his passion lay in MMA, which he quickly succeeded in when he won the AFMT Muay Thai heavyweight title in 2016. Gane made his UFC debut in August 2019, scoring a stunning first-round submission win against Raphael Pessoa.

His early fights in the UFC were dominant showings, with his standout win coming in August 2021, as he captured the interim UFC Heavyweight Championship with a TKO win over Derrick Lewis. However, he would lose the gold against Francis Ngannou in January 2022. The proudest night of his career came in September 2022, as he headlined a show in Paris against Tai Tuivasa, beating his opponent by KO in the third round.

Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou is one of the most successful UFC heavyweights of the modern era. Despite being born in Cameroon, Ngannou paved his way to the UFC during his time in France after moving to the nation to try and earn money to pursue his dream. His early life wasn’t without issues, as he spent time in jail after illegally crossing Spain. But, after arriving in France, he was encouraged to join the MMA Factory in Paris. Ngannou made a positive start to life in MMA, winning five of his first six fights before signing for the UFC. 

He won all six of his first fights in the UFC before falling short in landing the Heavyweight Championship against Stipe Miocic. However, he got back on track with dominant showings in 2019 and 2020, beating Junior dos Santos, Cain Velazquez, and Curtis Blaydes by KO. He would finally land the heavyweight championship with a stunning second-round KO against Miocic before unifying the division against Gane at UFC 270. 

Manon Fiorot

There have been a growing number of female MMA stars coming out of France in recent history, and the standout of those comes in the form of Manon Fiorot. Born in Nice in 1990, Fiorot is a remarkable talent who showcased exceptional aptitude across many sports from an early age.

She was a star in domestic snowboarding, winning the French Snowboarding Championship before turning his attention to MMA. Fiorot would later win several national championships across Muay Thai and Kickboxing before participating in the IMMAF European Open Championships, where she would reach the final. But she would right that wrong a few months later by winning the IMMAF World Championships 2017.

Fiorot then turned professional, but she was beaten on debut in Belgium by Leah McCourt at Cage Warriors 94. However, she would quickly get back on track by winning her next five fights before joining the UFC. On her UFC debut, she scored a stunning head kick TKO to land victory against Victoria Leonardo. Manon Fiorot continued her excellent displays in the UFC by landing victories against Mayra Bueno Silva, Jennifer Maia, and Katlyn Chookagian. She is ranked as the third-best fighter in the flyweight rankings, and she could record a huge win on home soil on September 2 as she takes on Women’s Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas.

Final Thoughts

MMA is becoming more and more popular in France. Fans from France are seeing French sportsmen reach the top of their respective sports. More UFC events are taking place in France than ever, offering fans more chances to interact with their favorite athletes. In addition to France, MMA has made major strides throughout Europe, with a growing MMA scene in Spain and other countries. As MMA’s appeal grows in Europe, it is safe to say that this upward trend will continue for many years.