Yesterday's landmark announcement that Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, would be insuring fighters under contract in an accident insurance plan is still reverberating throughout the MMA world. As we analyze what this means for the fighters and the sport more generally, we're beginning to understand what a monumental contribution this is to the lives and well-being of the fighters.
In fact, board-certified physician Matt Pitt explains the why obtaining coverage for professional MMA fighters beyond what is safely assumed to be high risk can be a difficult task in more precise quantitative terms:
Beyond the risk of their job, several factors make MMA fighters almost uniquely disadvantaged in finding health insurance in America.
MMA is a new sport, and there are a vanishingly small number of professional fighters. As a result, the health risk statistics associated with MMA are based on perhaps 2,000 poorly documented work years; for, firefighting the number of work years with which to build statistical models is in the multi-millions.
Is the risk of paralysis one in 100,000 or one in 160,000? Is there a 0.03 per annum risk of biceps tendon rupture or a 0.11 percent risk? Does a fighter go to the emergency room five times in a career or 20? For firefighters -- another profession with high work-related injury risk -- these numbers are known. For mixed martial artists, they are not; that uncertainty represents hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of exposure for an insurer.
Pitt also notes because of this coverage, more Zuffa fighters should be able to afford non-traumatic insurance plans to supplement their existing Zuffa coverage.
The point is this: the extraordinary effort put forth by Zuffa brass to break new ground and make this a reality is an achievement without qualification.