World champion Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and Olympic medalist Ronda Rousey has backed a new bill that would ensure fighters have a guaranteed pension fund.
AB 1136, which would create a new pension fund, was announced by San Francisco Assemblymember Matt Haney Thursday.
A press release on the proposed legislation said MMA fighters do not have a guaranteed source of income or retirement benefits once their careers have ended, and many fighters suffer long-term injuries from their time in the ring.
The MMA pension fund would be paid from a percentage of every professional fight’s ticket sales and will only be available to fighters over the age of 50 who have fought in 14 or more fights in California. The Golden State is the national leader in MMA, hosting the most fights and the most fighters of any state, the release said.
“Your body doesn’t forget. And many times you don’t realize you’ve taken one hit too many until decades later,” said Rousey, former bantamweight champion and the first female athlete to have signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). “Everyone loves you when you’re fighting in the octagon, but will any of those people be there for you when you’re in your 90s paying the price?”
Other professional athletes in the three most popular sports leagues—the National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association—have guaranteed contracts and pension plans.
A similar pension plan exists for boxers in California; this bill would extend a similar program to MMA fighters.
Elite MMA fighters have an average career length of 10 years, or on average 20 fights, before retiring. The physically demanding nature of the sport, and the risk of injury, means most fighters will only take on two to three fights a year to allow their bodies to recover.
“This pension fund is the right thing to do. It allows these athletes to save money for their retirement and creates a financial safety net to pay for medical bills,” Haney said. “It’s the first of its kind in the world of MMA, and it's an important step to support these athletes, who make MMA one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.”
The pension fund would not be funded with state cash. Instead, it would be financed through ticket sales, sports paraphernalia and souvenirs. For every ticket sold, $1 would go toward the pension fund. MMA fighters would become vested between 12-14 fights, which is around 39 scheduled rounds at commission-regulated MMA events.
Combat sports promoters such as UFC and Bellator would make regular payments into the fund, which will provide a source of income for fighters after they’ve retired.
The amount of money a fighter can collect from the pension fund will depend on the number of fights they have competed in and the length of their career.