Mixed martial arts is legal and regulated once again in New York, but new regulations enacted in response to concerns about severe brain injury in the ring mean that few promoters can afford to put on a show in The Empire State.
Promoters across the nation typically have to pay for a medical and accidental death policy with a $50,000 payout; cost is perhaps $4,000 per event. However, the new New York law now has a one-of-a-kind $1,000,000 traumatic brain injury insurance provision that is costing the UFC $1,675 each at UFC 205. That is not $1,675 per event, that is $1,675 per fighter.
So although athletes suffering a traumatic brain injury is very rare in boxing and very nearly unheard of in MMA, the UFC will have to pay $43,550 in extra insurance for the November 12 card. The multi-billion dollar league can afford it, but boxing promoters have been driven out of the state.
“These new insurance restrictions are not just destroying the sport of boxing in New York, they are destroying my livelihood,” said 18-0 professional boxer Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy to Dan Rafael for ESPN. “Do you have any idea what life looks like for a professional boxer, especially one who is a female and a single parent? With these new laws, fewer shows and dates being moved or canceled, I don’t know how I’m going to survive at all, let alone the upcoming holiday season. I’m going to have to go back to delivering books and answering phones to try to cover the bills.”
Lou DiBella, a Harvard Law School graduate and the most prolific boxing promoter in New York was more scathing still.
“There is such a rich history of boxing in New York,” said DiBella. “And now the sport has, for all intents and purposes, been evicted by a legislature willfully ignorant of both the boxing and insurance industries. The actions of the powers that be in Albany and their political appointees are depriving New York state residents in the sport of boxing from their livelihoods. This is hitting boxers very hard, as most struggle to pay their bills and need to be active.
“Small businesses are being put at jeopardy with no recourse or ability to continue plying their trade. This is a disgraceful abuse of legislative and state power.”
DiBella has moved his next two shows and Philly and Foxwoods.
Actual dinosaur Bob Arum accused the UFC of “freezing out” other fight promotions by lobbying for the massive increase during its nine-year fight to get MMA regulated in New York. The charge is not credible, or even rational, but is in keeping with Arum’s history of remarks about mixed martial arts.
The dollar amounts will be the same for UFC Fight Night 102 on December 9, 2016, at Times Union Center, in Albany, New York. That twelve-fight card will cost the UFC $40,200 in traumatic brain injury insurance premiums. WSoF plans a December 31 show. And Bellator MMA has received a promoter’s license but has not announced date or time. But boxing appears to be largely gone.
Severe brain injury in the ring is horrific, but a more effective approach would be to increase commission competency, so, for example, the chain of errors that left prizefighter Magomed Abdusalamov in a coma are not repeated. Enacting legislation that pays out $1,000,000 after the fighter is already injured, leading to no fights at all, is not a solution, it is prohibition.