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Fighter Health Insurance Deductables - WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
I have had the following conversation with up and coming fighters many times over the years.
Me: “Damn, Doc stopped the fight huh?”
Fighter: “Yeah, I was dominating until I got caught with an elbow breaking from a clinch half-way through the second round.”
Me: “That sucks...”
Fighter: “Yeah, elbow opened up a gash above my eye and the doc called it.”
Me: “Must have been a pretty bad cut.”
Fighter: “Yeah, 1 month, 15 stitches, and $500 later and I’m back on the mats.”
Me: “$500? I thought the promoter had insurance for that type of stuff.”
Fighter: “Yeah, it was covered, but he told me that the fighter is responsible for the deductible.”
The fact that this scenario happens at all is ridiculous. Most states which allow professional MMA matches to take place have specific statutes, rules, and state specific regulations which must be followed by the promoter. Of the 37 states which regulate MMA events, 35 specifically provide that the promoter must purchase medical insurance to cover fighters who are injured while participating in the promotion. Of the 35 which require insurance, 15 specifically provide that the promoter, NOT the fighter, is responsible for paying any deductible associated with that policy. A summary of the MMA status and insurance regulations in the 50 states is available for viewing HERE.
The promoter SHOULD know the rules and regulations which govern the event in the state he or she is applying for a license in. Similarly, the fighter's manager should also know. The first tier promoters know what they are required to do in the particular state where their promotion is taking place. Where a fighter runs into problems or inconsistency is in the smaller promotions.
In a small promotion, most of the fighters are being paid on a very low and tight sliding scale, i.e., unless the fighter is headlining the event, he may be looking at a purse payout as low as $200/$200. So, even if the fighter wins, but has to go to the hospital to receive some stitches, he may be out $100 ($500 deductible - $400 purse) plus travel and accommodations. In states that do not require the promoter to cover a fighters medical insurance deductible, it is entirely possible that a fighter, at the end of the weekend, will actually be in the hole several hundred dollars; EVEN IF HE WON THE FIGHT.
Worse yet, there are promoters out there who are taking advantage of unrepresented or under-represented fighters who simply don’t know what they are responsible for. Many times a new fighter will be told by the promoter that the fighter is responsible for a deductible; when actually, the state prohibits such a charge. Many promoters rely on the fact that a new fighter is simply trying to get experience and will not either research the state statutes or boxing commission rules or, even if they know, they will not “rock the boat” by reporting the promoter’s violation to that state’s regulatory agency.
While this “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of situational blindness may arguably benefit the fighter or manager in the short run (they maintain a relationship with a shady promoter and can get fights), it endangers the fighter’s career (many fights for little to no payout if injured), damages the fighter's credit (most new fighters do not have the money to pay medical bill debt collectors), and harms the sport of MMA by engendering a “good ‘ole boys” type network similar to the back-room dealings that have plagued the sport of boxing for decades.
The laws, rules and regulations established by state legislatures and state athletic commissions are put in place to protect the fighter. Ignoring the law is NOT an option and the statement “well, that is the way it is done,” is NOT an excuse for violation of the law. In today’s society athletes are held to a higher standard and are in the public eye more than ever with every legislator hopping on the “JUST SAY NO TO STEROIDS!!” cause which vilifies an athlete for even a minor transgression. Promoters should be similarly held to a high ethical standard for the benefit of the sport and safety and longevity of the athlete. Promoters that “ignore” a state’s regulations concerning the payment of a fighter’s deductible are stealing from the fighters…plain and simple.
Last edited by GoldenJonas; 5/19/2009 1:36pm at .