As independent contractors, UFC athletes lack the protections that most everyday employees of major corporations enjoy. Including retirement plans and long-term health care.
That, however, may soon change. “Soon” being the key word.
In an Instagram Q&A with fans (h/t MMA Junkie), UFC President Dana White responded to one very well-thought out question on the subject. A user going by the name Stevet692 asked the promoter “Will the UFC ever offer their fighters full time health benefits so they can have them after their careers are over and possibly deal with life altering issues from fighting (?)”
White’s answer? “Soon.”
Were it to happen, it would be a major step forward for UFC fighters. Currently, those under contract are covered for any injury that occurs inside the octagon. Additionally, the UFC brought in insurance for fighters injured in training back in 2011.
Part ways with the promotion and head off into retirement? When all the years of nagging injuries start to add up, fighters are on their own.
That’s something that UFC fan favorite Cub Swanson brought up late last year (and he’s far from the first to bring attention to the issue).
“I definitely think that a lot of these fighters should be taken care of long-term. But I feel like we’re in that kind of situation where it’s, like, the early NFL players,” Swanson said ahead of UFC 256. “We’re the ones that kind of set the standard, and then the next generation are probably going to get all the benefits from us growing the sport.”
“Especially with having kids, I just hope that I’m able to have health insurance all the way through and get the things I need to get done,” noted Swanson, whose entertaining fighting style is also one likely to put a heavy toll on the body. “I realize that I put my body through a lot, but I’ve always thought at the same time if I was a plumber or any kind of worker in that industry, which a lot of people that I grew up with are, I would imagine that their bodies feel the same, their backs are wrecked.”
If White stays true to his word, Swanson might get exactly the sort of help he’s looking for. Which, given fighters have struggled to organize any sort of united front or form a union, is almost miraculous.