Zuffa’s announcement on Monday that it would provide insurance to over 350 athletes under contract to the UFC and Strikeforce sent shockwaves through the industry.
Never before has a major company in MMA covered their athletes for injuries sustained outside of an actual fight, but as of June 1, all fighters under the Zuffa umbrella will enjoy such a perk.
Details about the insurance coverage were discussed during a conference call on Monday, in which UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta disclosed that not only were all fighters covered, but they were covered worldwide.
“All of the fighters that are under contract with Zuffa, which would include all of the fighters on the UFC roster as well as the Strikeforce roster will be covered under this plan,” Fertitta revealed. “The coverage will also be available worldwide. So not only will this cover the fighters that live in the United States, but will also cover the fighters from no matter where you are, whether it be Brazil, Europe, Asia, Canada, no matter where that’d be.”
The insurance will be paid for by Zuffa. So while every fighter is covered, they will not incur any of the cost.
“Zuffa will pay 100 percent of the premium. So this is a complete benefit to our fighters, they don’t have to come out of pocket for any monthly fees or monthly dues or anything of that nature,” said Fertitta.
One of the most important parts of this news is that not only will fighters be covered for training injuries sustained while getting ready for a fight, but they will be covered in the case of an accident.
Several situations have arose in the past where fighters have been forced out of action due to incidents outside of training. Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle back in 2004, suffered serious injuries and was forced out of action for almost two years.
“This is not just training, if a fighter, one of the issues fighters have obviously they want to train, and they want to get in shape to be able to do what they do to make money, which is fight. But this coverage also covers them in the event of any kind of accident that could prevent them from fighting and making their purse,” Fertitta stated.
“They could slip on ice and hurt their hip, and they would be covered. They could get in an automobile accident; it would be covered from that standpoint as well.”
The biggest part of this insurance coverage could be the fact that the fighters are now covered 100 percent of the time if they are under contract with the UFC or Strikeforce. Even if a fighter is injured during their own downtime without a fight scheduled, the insurance will cover them.
“It’s as long as they’re under contract with us,” said Fertitta about the coverage.
The insurance coverage is for accidental situations like training injuries or car accidents and the like, it is not general health insurance. A fighter simply getting sick with the common cold or flu would not be covered.
That does lead to another quandary, however, because many fighters are forced out of bouts with situations like staph infection. Fighters contract the disease many times during training, but it can be caused by any number of issues.
It also brings into question the situation that happened with former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, who was forced out of action for several months with a devastating bout of diverticulitis.
While the UFC couldn’t comment with absolutely certainty, according to lead legal counsel Lawrence Epstein, they believe it’s something important that will get addressed.
“That’s a very good question. I personally believe that those types of injuries will be covered, but one of the things, as you know, insurance companies as we all interact with them can be difficult at times, so I want to sort of reserve my final judgment on that,” Epstein commented.
The UFC will have a full-time employee on staff to help the fighters file insurance claims and go through the necessary paperwork to deal with situations just like what was mentioned with staph infections, and things of that nature.
Overall, the new insurance plan will come as a relief to many fighters and a security blanket for those times when something bad does happen.