|UFC president Dana White announced on Monday that the company will be bringing in an unprecedented new insurance policy for its entire roster of fighters. (AFP)
TORONTO - The world's biggest MMA company will break new ground with a new medical insurance policy designed to take care of those who break bones for a living.
In an “unprecedented” move for a combat sports organization, the UFC has announced all 350 fighters on its roster will be covered by a new “highly customized” accident insurance policy that kicks in this June.
“This literally is groundbreaking stuff,” an excited UFC President Dana White said Monday. “It’s never been done before in combat sports.”
While there has been mounting concerns over head injuries and the future health of fighters, considered independent contractors, the UFC’s boss said the idea of added insurance has been in the works seriously for at least three years.
“This is something we've wanted to do since we started the company 10 years ago,” White said. “So this is a real milestone for us.”
All of the company’s athletes fighting under the UFC and Strikeforce banner currently have event coverage, so anyone hurt while fighting inside the octagon has medically coverage.
But the new plan covers fighters while they are outside the cage, whether they are injured during training, involved in a car accident or even if they twist an ankle while vacuuming at home.
White said getting medical treatment may not be significant to higher profile athletes, but it’s not uncommon for lesser-known fighters to put off seeking help for an injury because they can’t afford it.
“This is a huge deal for up-and-coming guys who aren’t Georges St.-Pierre,” he said.
Athletes who are injured during training and pull out of a fight lose their purse from that bout so they are already out of pocket, White explained.
And if they live in a country like the U.S., which doesn't have free healthcare, an injury can be extremely costly.
UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said the fact their fighters live in many different countries was one of the many obstacles that had to be overcome in order to convince an insurance company to get on board.
And many companies “pretty much slammed the door on us,” he said.
Ultimately, the UFC secured a policy underwritten by Houston Casualty Insurance Company.
But because it’s such a high-risk profession, the policy comes at “a substantial expense” to Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company.
“We’re stepping up in a big way,” Fertitta said of the “all-encompassing plan.”
The new policy covers up to $50,000 per year for every fighter under contract and provides 24-hour medical insurance worldwide. It also includes life insurance, dental coverage and emergency medical evacuation.
And it will be 100% funded by Zuffa, so there is no fee to the fighters.
The fighters are “extremely happy about it,” Fertitta said.