Samantha Jean

One hell of a woman. For her title of world champion in mixed martial arts (MMA), acquired on August 28 in Dubai, in the category of less than 52 kg. But also for his associative commitment against violence against women. The French Samantha Jean-François has also just opened a room in Port-de-Bouc, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, to train, but above all to coach the people she helps. She confides in 20 minutes on the prospects offered to him by this title obtained against the Marseillaise Mona Tfouhi, by submission, and on his many other fights.

Does this title look like above all a culmination?

Absolutely. In a few months, I will have been practicing MMA for ten years. I’m really coming to the end. It’s a fight that I was offered at short notice, and that I accepted because we know full well that these opportunities do not come again. I prepared thoroughly, telling myself that it was finally the right time…

Why was it not the right time until now?

When I was offered my first belt, I was really not well. It was by doing the medical examinations that I found out that I was two months pregnant. And the second time I was offered a belt was two months into the pregnancy. It was a magnificent fight, but the conditions were not favorable. There either I want to say!

Why ?

Because I only had two weeks to prepare. My opponent had a Brazilian opponent, but she couldn’t make the fight. They looked for a replacement, and I said yes. I was trained, in good shape. But there were only two weeks left. Not to prepare physically, but more mentally. Tell yourself that it’s a title, not a lambda fight.

And then, this fight for the title of world champion?

It went very well (laughs). I knew my opponent a little, she is from Marseille. But we had never met in a competition. A few weeks earlier, the French women’s ranking had been communicated, and she was ranked 2nd. I got a little nervous because I think other fighters deserved to be in this ranking. Admittedly, they are not on social networks, are not seen or known, but they have been there for years. I speak for myself of course, but also for others.

Do you feel that this ranking is more related to image than pure performance?

Yes, totally. It’s really a story of social networks. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. We may have good performances, very good fights, we don’t necessarily have the hoped-for return, if we are not seen. Whether it’s at the level of sponsors, at the level of fight proposals… It’s above all a question of showing off and I’m not at all in this dynamic.

Do you regret this place taken by the image?

I can understand, for organizations, that it is very important that a fighter be seen. But when you see some people who fight for titles after two fights, or who go to very large organizations… We who have been there for ten years, we are still waiting. That’s a shame.

Do you see any repercussions since your title of world champion?

Totally. It’s completely different at the media level, but also at the level of the proposals that come in. For other women, too, because I have an association fighting against violence against women. This is also a point to which I am very attached.

Frenchwoman Samantha Jean-François became world champion nine years after starting MMA. – Samantha Jean-Francois

Introduce us to this association…

I created it in Marseille, in the priority neighborhoods of the city. It is not only a question of domestic violence, but also of everyday violence, of how to manage it. When I moved to Martigues, I recreated a section in Port-de-Bouc. I want to make these women understand that you shouldn’t seek confrontation right away, but first try to communicate.

Then it’s about managing the distance from the person attacking us. If it is really necessary to intervene, they should have quick, effective gestures to control the aggressor. And possibly flee. I am not only targeting domestic violence, because that concerns 20% of the people who come. The others are people who get annoyed, get whistled at, grab their hands in the buttocks. At work too.

Why did you create this association? Have you been a victim of violence yourself?

When we are little, there are things that mark us. I have an aunt who was beaten up every day, it had become commonplace. As a child, you don’t really understand what’s going on. We see that this is not normal, but we are too small to react. And growing up, I still knew a lot of women who complained about that. I told myself that I had to act. Give the keys. Indeed, one day, a classmate in college put a hand on my buttocks at the swimming pool. It pissed me off. I waited for him outside and broke his arm. I told myself that I was predestined for Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Whereas at the time, I was dancing.

Was it after this event that you turned to combat sports?

No, these are two separate things. Combat sports, I discovered them by chance. I had just broken up, and I wanted to let off steam. A friend told me to come and try, I said to myself “but not even in a dream”. Finally, it was a revelation. It was nine years ago.

How do you see the future, after this title of world champion?

In a month, I have the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and grappling world championships. In 2023, it is the free boxing world championships, and sambo. During Covid-19, there weren’t many offers for MMA. So I tried other disciplines, because I wanted to fight. And as I performed in these, I am committed on all fronts (laughs).

And for MMA?

I have a few proposals that are not bad, although I prefer not to talk about them for the moment. But we will have to defend the belt well, because having it is one thing, but keeping it is another.

Do you feel that MMA and martial arts are developing in France?

Yes. I don’t know if it’s since MMA arrived in France, or UFC Paris, which was a hit, or the media stunt for my title. I’m opening a combat gym, and I think I’m going to be overwhelmed. It interests a lot of women, it will do them a world of good. These are 100% female classes, there are no men and they can learn in peace. And I also had a lot of requests from children.

Tell us about this project…

This is precisely what made me doubt the feasibility of the fight. Because I had undertaken to retype this room from A to Z, which the town hall made available to me. When I was offered the fight, I closed the door and put everything on stand-by. I was between the cans of paint, my gloves, the ring, the cage. But now I’m coming to the end. I’m going to do the training, I’m going to train too.

Do you build bridges between your association and this room?

Of course it’s a gateway. No, sport does not build character, it reveals it. It was my case and I hope it will be for young people. I see here, in Port-de-Bouc as soon as I opened the door to the gym, the kids said to me “Madam, it’s great, we’ll be able to play sports, MMA”. I prefer to have them with me for two hours, rather than them being at the bottom of the building. To teach them values, because they forget. They respect them, the others. That’s what I’m going to do here.

Samantha Jean-François, MMA champion, confides in her fights