The UFC's new accident insurance plan clearly has numerous benefits. It creates a safer training environment. It alleviates some of the drain of fighters' disposable income that would normally go towards medical costs. And it generally gives the UFC the moral high ground in combat sports as it redefines the role and responsibilities of "promoter".
According to Leland Roling, it may also help with talent acquisition:
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.
It's hard to argue with this. A prospect facing an important decision about where to take his talents is going to be heavily swayed by the opportunity to be insured to this degree. Other promoters are going to have to come out of their pockets just to keep up, which will likely further stratify the sub-UFC level fight promotions.
This also creates something of a barrier to entry for any wayward promotion or investor who cares to ever compete with the UFC. More than signing talent to run a successful operation, you'll have to provide other "amenities" that generally offset the quality of life available to this new middle class of UFC fighters.
This is Zuffa digging their promotional heels in the dirt and taking over the land in a way literally unimaginable a year ago. It'll be curious to see how the MFCs and Bellators of MMA react.