On Monday, the UFC announced that all fighters under the Zuffa banner would be covered by accident insurance effective June 1st of this year. The policy has no restrictions on where a fighter resides, nor does it exclude fighters who do not have a signed fight contract for an upcoming event. Approximately 350 fighters will be covered under the new policy, giving them up to $50,000 per year with premiums being paid by Zuffa. The move is a monumental milestone in combat sports, making the UFC an even more prominent destination for aspiring stars of the cage.
Talent acquisition has been a topic of discussion among fans for years, mainly focusing on the up-and-coming talent that may have a shot at greatness in more prominent promotions. For many of those fighters, money is a significant reason why they may sign with one organization over another, but the UFC is typically the end game. Maximum Fighting Championships, Bellator, Shark Fights, Tachi Palace Fights, BAMMA, the list goes on of credible organizations who can shell out the cash to acquire the services of solid prospects or older veterans hoping to prove they can still hack it in the UFC.
Bellator is particularly interesting due to the large sums of money a fighter can obtain within the time span of four months. This season, a tournament winner will net $100,000 for roughly four months of grueling training along with a shot at their current title holder. It has been one of the main reasons why Bellator has been able to acquire some of the best prospects in the market. The UFC is offering less money for those initial fights in the UFC. Understandably, why spend major dollars on an unproven fighter who may not pan out?
Zuffa's new insurance policy may change the way in which prospects think about their future, specifically the loved ones they may be helping support or their own well-being. We've heard stories about the struggles of professional fighters in the past. Injuries can wreak havoc on families, putting extreme pressure on fighters to perform, work through injuries in training, and show up to fights less than 100%. Let's not forget the added stress of finding a way to pay for training camps and training partners that were brought in to help you succeed.
While Zuffa's policy may not cover the costs of a training camp, it will alleviate the costs of getting healthy, a substantial cost for fighters, many of which are uninsured. For potential freshmen making their way through the regional ranks, the news should serve as a reminder that the UFC is where they want to be when the offer hits the table.
Imagine a scenario like that of Chris Weidman. He had talked to Bellator, and he was more than likely sought as a competitor in one of the tournament brackets. The potential was there for him to net $100,000 in four months, get himself out of his parents' basement, and provide for his wife and newborn baby. Ray Longo and Matt Serra urged him to wait for the greener pastures of the UFC, and it worked out in the end. But what if they had not been there to mentor the young wrestler?
In Weidman's situation, many fighters would have signed on the dotted line with Bellator and attempted to earn the rather large sum of money at the end of a four-month roller coaster. But if Weidman had been injured in the lead-up to the first bout, he's broke with a newborn baby and wife in his parents' basement.
The UFC may not be paying what regional promotions are shelling out to lock up touted prospects, but the insurance policy is a security blanket that is worth a substantial amount. In my opinion, it should be a deciding factor for many prospects who are offered less money to fight for the UFC while being offered the potential of a Bellator payout or possibly higher payouts in their first fight by promotions like MFC or Shark Fights. In essence, the UFC may have caused an influential shift in how they acquire talent. Talent won't be waiting to be noticed. They'll be banging on the UFC's door to let them in.
A bargaining table that includes the UFC, Bellator, MFC, and various other organizations is now heavily lopsided in favor of the UFC. Even if they are offering $5,000 to show, $5,000 to win while MFC is offering up $10,000/$10,000 or even $15,000/$15,000, the UFC is the better deal. Why?
Fighters headlining regional cards aren't making a living on their wages alone. They are normally working as instructors at their gyms or working a regular blue-collar, or sometimes white-collar, regular paying job on the side. It may be slowing their progression in becoming top talents, but for now -- it's what needs to be done to support themselves and their families. Injuries can affect both their personal jobs, their fighting careers, and the loved ones they support. No other promotions can offer that kind of commitment. In my mind, the UFC just one-upped any promotion hoping to sign talent that has the UFC's watchful eye already interested.