MMA's Need for Post-Career Fighter Healthcare (And Why It Won't Happen)

I must confess that I am not a normal person. For some, a guilty pleasure might be chocolate, a favorite fast-food joint, or a trashy reality TV show. Me? I like watching people get punched in the face. I personally attribute my loving of the fighting world to animal instinct, but unlike animals, humans are ideally morally conscious.

After contemplating what it would be like to be a warrior in the cage, I was also forced to think about what it would be like to be a fighter who has reached the end of the line. Need an example of that moment ? Go watch Chuck Liddell's losing effort against Mauricio Rua from 2009’s UFC 97: Redemption

This leads me to ask the following questions:

Although the UFC and other promotions provide fighter/ fight night healthcare, could they do more for the retired vets that helped make MMA a worldwide phenomenon? Probably. Should they? Some may argue for it. Will they? More than likely, that won’t happen unless it’s the result of a settlement like in the similar case of the NFL. For individual examples of why post-career care is necessary, click the MMAJunkie link below--which includes the tragic retirement life of Mark Coleman who now needs a GoFundMe page to pay his medical expenses. (May 9, 2011) via UFC press release:

"To date, Zuffa event-related insurance has always met or exceeded Athletic Commission requirements and has covered all injuries sustained during competition. After exploring the purchase of “training insurance” for its athletes for several years – much of which was met with difficulty in finding an insurance company willing to insure mixed martial artists – Zuffa officials were able to secure a comprehensive plan through A+ rated Houston Casualty.

The new policy adds 24-hour worldwide medical life insurance and dental coverage, as well as emergency medical evacuation. Zuffa will pay 100 percent of the premiums for its athletes and have an employee dedicated to handling and filing all claims."

MMA Fighting has more specifics:

"Under the current terms of its event insurance, Zuffa covered its athletes — considered independent contractors — for any injuries stemming from a fight. Effective on June 1, according to Fertitta, fighters will receive $50,000 in annual coverage for any injuries that occur while under contract to Zuffa. The coverage includes expected problems like injuries sustained in the course of training, as well as those brought about in everyday life, like car accidents and falls."

So the only other question to ask is: Why?

The key words are, “while under contract”. From how it sounds to me, fighters will no longer be responsible for their care within that cap. Still, that is only while under contract with Zuffa. So to tell you the obvious, anything for retirement would need to be written in.

To do this for every athlete in the organization, each one is responsible in part for the terms of their contract. Fighters could unionize, but I think that's a stretch. If the athlete doesn't make a point of preparing for life outside the cage in the paperwork, that's their concern. Everyone involved in the sport knows that it's different from an office job with benefits, a pension, etc...

I hope something happens for both the old-school legends and for the future of the sport, but I can't argue that blame or responsibility should be placed on the promotions.

What do you think?

For more on the support for post-career care, check out Ben Fowlkes of USA Today’s