NY bill would mandate MMA fighter health fund


Mixed martial arts is now the world's fastest growing sport, but you can't have a professional fight in Madison Square Garden, historically a center of the combat sports universe. Amateur, unregulated bouts are currently permitted in the state, but bills to allow pro fights have been defeated in the state Assembly for the past four years.

Now, in a curious twist, one of the sport's main opponents in New York, midtown state Sen. Brad Hoylman, plans to introduce Legislation by the end of the month that would create a mandatory health care fund for fighters, modeled on funds established for horse-racing jockeys and taxi drivers.

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer Alan Neuhauser has the story.

"If you're going to make a profit off people getting beaten up and injured, you better take care of them," said Hoylman, who is among a number of Manhattan state lawmakers opposed to allowing promotional mixed martial arts matches in New York State.

"Promoters are making a lot of money off of these fighters. I think we need to consider the impact," said Hoylman. "It's another approach to make sure fighters are cared for."

The sport's largest promoter, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, provides $50,000 in health insurance for its roughly 450 fighters. UFC is the only MMA organization to cover injuries incurred outside the cage, such as during training.*

Most other promoters, such as Bellator, which has partnered with Spike TV, provide event-by-event health care coverage. But even UFC's coverage, Hoylman argued, ends once a fighter's contract expires — potentially years before the long-term neurological consequences of repeated blows to the head often surface.

"My concern is that there are long-term health consequences for the participants — injuries that have been shown in other sports to come to fruition to have debilitating consequences," Hoylman said.

His bill, if approved, would make New York the first state in the country that would require MMA promoters to contribute to a health care fund.

The discussion comes on the heels of a growing awareness of the dangers of repeated concussions and other brain trauma resulting from contact sports, such as professional football.

The UFC said it would be open to the idea of a fighters' fund.

"We are supportive of aNY bill or anything that can help the health and safety of our athletes," said UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein. "We've got a short-term solution, where we take care of guys while they're with us."

Epstein added that the company is funding and participating in a neurological study being conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, focusing on the brain health of its athletes.

Bellator also expressed support for Hoylman's proposal, calling it "a very positive idea."

"Orchestration and overall funding for such an undertaking is an involved issue," the California-based company said in a statement. "But the concept itself is something that every promoter of MMA or any form of combat sports should be at the table discussing."

Smaller promoters in New York State said they, too, would be behind virtually any measure that would help protect MMA fighters — but they also voiced strong reservations about the financial burden such a fund could impose.

Organizing a professional fight in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, for example, typically costs at least $5,000 to $10,000, and attracting fans beyond fighters' friends and family proves a challenge.

"It's a great idea in theory," said Mike Hauben, owner of Fight Summit, the world's largest annual MMA conference. "The big issue is that most of these promoters — none of these guys have any money.

"It's easy for UFC to make some money, Bellator to make some money," he added. "But unless you have really well known local fighters, no one's coming except friends and family of the fighters. So it's hard to keep introducing all these costs."

Erik Herbert, co-promoter of TNT Fight Series, which has held four amateur MMA fights in and around Buffalo and Rochester, agreed.

"I pay thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars a year in health insurance, liability insurance, doctors, EMTs, prepaid medical, blood work, and now the state wants a health care fund?" he said. "No other state requires that. These fighters, they do sign contracts, they do sign waivers. They are grown adults making their own decisions."

Hoylman's proposal is based on the state's Worker's Compensation Jockey Fund for horse jockeys, and the Taxi & Limousine Commission's Health & Disability Fund for taxi drivers.

"It will frankly save the state from having to care for these participants, who may not have the knowledge of the consequences of the sport," Hoylman said. "The fighting careers have been very short. They're like racehorses or greyhounds, and we can't put people out to pasture."

Read entire article...

*Zuffa provides up to $50,000 of coverage annually for each fighter's injuries suffered outside the cage. Medical costs directly related to fights are covered by the company's event insurance.


So what do you think UG?

First question is the obvious one - HOW did that pencil-necked geek steal Tank Abbott's wig?

But beyond that, is it a great idea? Vindictive idea? Will pay for a lot of needed medical care? Will kill regional MMA promotions in NY? Infringes on free enterprise? Should cover pro boxing first, as that is where dain bramage is BY FAR most prevalent?


tags: Legislation   regulation   NY   


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Recent Comments »

ChaosOverkill site profile image  

4/27/13 2:53 PM by ChaosOverkill

another Culinary puppet twisting the issues

BobD site profile image  

4/27/13 2:33 PM by BobD

This ^^^   Another uncontrolled expense for the promoter to shoulder.  Actually it could work in the UFC's favor, one more barrier to entry to the plum market they want to themselves.

Kneeblock site profile image  

4/27/13 10:36 AM by Kneeblock

lol at "costing NY businesses millions of dollars."  That's the greatest myth of legalizing MMA here. Sure the UFC would bring in revenue, but not really anymore than any other event that books the Garden. NY is not hurting for revenue at this point at all.  Focusing on bringing in revenue was just a buzzword PR move during the height of the fiscal crisis. Now that that's passed for the most part here (unlike some other parts of the country), a new tactic is needed.  From legislators I've spoken to here it's not about the money, it's not about the culinary union and it's not about any boxing ties. It's about the fact that there are a select few who have a revulsion for MMA and everyone else doesn't care about it at all. Because it became a contentious issue several years ago, no one is willing to waste their political capital trying to get a bill done because they could care less. There is also very little clamor for legalization statewide. Most of the rallying has been focused downstate, which means the legislators who actively oppose it (from upstate) don't have any incentive to change their mind. The fact that the Culinary Union is in legislator's ears saying the UFC is anti-labor doesn't help, but is generally a small piece of the pie. Also, promotions should collectively come together and create a health benefit fund. Nothing wrong with that.  

Kirik site profile image  

4/27/13 8:25 AM by Kirik

Potentially wacky I guess? Can't tell if the guy who stole Tank's toupee is sincere or trying to stop most MMA promotions.

robnashville site profile image  

4/27/13 7:22 AM by robnashville

underground blog labels this legislation "wacky" in 4,3,2,...

robnashville site profile image  

4/27/13 7:22 AM by robnashville

underground blog labels this legislation "wacky" in 4,3,2,...

fightharder site profile image  

4/27/13 5:54 AM by fightharder

And another dimension of tomfuckery is added to the whole sorry ''MMA in NYC'' saga.   Though i do think the idea might be a great one in theory (fighters deserve care,even after there careers have ended) but i cannot escape the notion that this just yet another hurdle they try to frustrate the whole process.The most important benchmark would be if they could have it run by private companies that get publicaly audited. There so be no fucking political involvement apart from pushing the creation,AT ALL.   This is never going to happen though. They try to either make it unreasonable expensive (and we once again have a reason to cry havok about that silly organisation that calls itself the culinairy union) or they try to wring MMA like a private cash pig. Either way i am having a hard way to see this as something positive considering the timing and the person who is all initiating this.

Steve4192 site profile image  

4/26/13 6:47 PM by Steve4192

Wonderful idea in theory, but then again, so was the California boxer's pension and neurological fund. Problem is, they never paid out a fucking dime to the people it was supposed to help. They just used it as a political slush fund and claimed it was too difficult to find athletes who were eligible for payment.I would want to see some damn solid accounting controls and assurances that the athletes will actually receive the money that is being socked away.

Chromium site profile image  

4/26/13 6:34 PM by Chromium

Any reason the legislation isn't for all professional contact sports? Particularly boxing.

Bobby Lupo site profile image  

4/26/13 4:29 PM by Bobby Lupo

Sounds good to me. For MMA and boxing. Zuffa should just make nice with the culinary union. I can walk to MSG