Zuffa, LLC is a company that owns both the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest mixed martial arts promotion company in the world, and Strikeforce, a mixed martial arts and kickboxing organization. As Zuffa deals with such a large number of fighters (over 350 are under contract with UFC and Strikeforce), it feels a responsibility to them and that’s why the company announced on May 9, 2011 that it would be extending its insurance policy to provide year-round customized insurance for any injury suffered by an athlete signed on with either Strikeforce or UFC. Before this change, Zuffa would give athletes $100,000 if they sustained any injuries during competition. Athletes were not covered if they were injured outside of competition or in training. Two notable athletes that found this out the hard way were Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar. Mir was hit by a car when driving his motorcycle and was unable to fight for over 19 months, while Lesnar was unable to fight for several months due to being stricken with diverticulitis.
These new insurance measures were not undertaken as a result of government intervention – Zuffa chose to take this step on its own. Although the previous insurance provided by Zuffa was enough to meet or exceed the guidelines set out by the Athletic Commission, Zuffa was not pleased with the amount of coverage it provided to its athletes. UFC president Dana White says that providing this type of comprehensive insurance was something Zuffa has wanted to do ever since it bought UFC in 2001. For several years Zuffa searched for an insurance company to provide “training insurance,” but until now it was unable to do so simply because Zuffa could not find a company willing to insure mixed martial artists. Zuffa owner Lorenzo Fertitta talked about his experiences of going to insurance companies, asking them to insure 350-400 fighters and getting the door slammed in his face – no one was interested in insuring high risk fighters. That all changed when Zuffa was finally able to come to an agreement with the A+ rated HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc. It was a three year search in order to find this insurance, which will go into effect June 2011. This is the first time that a company of this type has provided such comprehensive insurance to its athletes.
The new policy will cover all athletes under contract to UFC and Strikeforce whether they live in the United States or not. The coverage applies no matter where the athletes are injured. Zuffa is going to be paying for all the premiums – the athletes will not be required to fork over a cent. It doesn’t matter whether an athlete is scheduled to fight or not – if they’re injured, the insurance will kick in. In addition to injuries caused by accidents, the policy also covered training-related illnesses and other debilitating diseases, although it does not cover minor illnesses like a cold or flu. Athletes will also receive free life and dental insurance under this new policy.