Dana White and the UFC have long caught slack for not offering medical benefits to retired fighters. But in a single word post from the UFC president, all that could change.
Asked directly by a fan about the situation while participating in an impromptu Q&A session with Karyn Bryant over Instagram:
“Will the UFC ever offer their fighters full time health benefits so they can have them after their careers are over and possibly deal with life altering issues from fighting (?).”
White responded with one poignant word, “Soon.”
White offered no other details or information, but the response is still incredibly impactful. He has not publicly acknowledged support for a fighter long-term benefits package since 2011. Before 2011, fighters only received medical coverage for injuries sustained directly during competition through the UFC’s insurance policy. Since the athletic commissions strictly enforced the policy, the promotion added additional training coverage to protect active fighters further. In the weeks that followed, White expressed openness to a long-term benefit and pension program for retired fighters in an interview.
“If we can figure out something for a fighter pension, that’s something we’d love to do. But it goes right along with, ‘What do you think about a fighter’s union?’ That’s up to the fighters. That’s not up to me. I (couldn’t) care less. It doesn’t matter to us.”
“… We’re trying to prevent a situation where guys retire and they retire with nothing.”
Since it would involve holding a portion of their current earnings to fund their future benefits, White expressed his concerns on fighter buy-in to a pension plan.
“Let me tell you what – fighters don’t want to share with anybody, and fighters don’t want us taking a piece of their money. Taking some out and saying, ‘We’re going to put it over here and invest it for you.’ Guys are like, ‘I need all that money, and I want it now.’ So it sounds like a great idea, and it sounds like something to do, but it’s a lot harder than people think.”
Though White’s support was clear, little publicly visible action has happened since. In fact, in 2016, White seemed less supportive of the move following comments made by Donald Cerrone. (H/T MMAJunkie)
“We have a health insurance plan now,” White said. “If anything happens to them in the octagon, they’re fully covered for anything. We cover everything that happens to them, but outside now we have a deal for when they’re training – because a lot of guys get hurt in training. Is it the greatest policy ever? No.”
“But let me tell you something: Don’t ever be mistaken about why insurance companies are in business. They’re in business to make money, and (when you insure them) you don’t make money on 500 ultimate fighters, because they’re always hurt.”
“… And when we talk about post-fight, ‘Cowboy’ and all the other fighters, you’re making a million-something (dollars) this year,” White said.
“That is your retirement. You can’t live off the sponsorship money and throw $1.3 million in the bank? And do that for the next couple of years? And then hopefully invest your money wisely – that’s all of our situations, we’re all in that same situation.”
“When you look at these guys and you think a guy who never held the title, and a guy who has only headlined three events for the UFC is making millions of dollars.”
With California moving to add pension benefits for MMA fighters similar to what they currently offer boxers, it’s unclear if other commissions will follow suit. Still, many are hopeful that White’s recent comment is a precursor for positive changes to come.
Do you think that the UFC should be responsible for providing long-term health benefits to their retired fighters?