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New Bill to Create State Run Pension Fund for MMA Fighters

Assemblymember Haney’s AB 1136 will require Mixed Martial Arts promoters to set aside a portion of their ticket sales for a California state run pension fund for combat sports athletes

For immediate release:
  • Nate Allbee
  • (415) 756-0561

Sacramento, CA — Today, Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) along with world champion Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter and Olympic medalist Ronda Rousey, announced AB 1136, the MMA Fighters Pension Fund. MMA fighters do not have a guaranteed source of income or retirement benefits once their careers have ended and many fighters have long term injuries from their time in the ring. The MMA Pension fund will be paid from a percentage of every professional fight’s ticket sales and will only be available to fighters over the age of 50 who have fought in 14 or more fights in California. California is the national leader in MMA, hosting the most fights and most fighters of any state.. 

“Your body doesn’t forget. And many times you don’t realize you’ve taken one hit too many until decades later,” said Ronda Rousey, former Bantamweight champion and the first female athlete to have signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). “Everyone loves you when you’re fighting in the octagon, but will any of those people be there for you when you’re in your nineties paying the price?”

Other professional athletes in the three most popular sports leagues (NFL, MLB, and NBA) have guaranteed contracts and pension plans. A similar pension program exists for boxers in California; this bill would extend a similar program to MMA fighters. Elite MMA fighters have an average career length of 10 years, or on average 20 fights before retiring. The physically demanding nature of the sport, and the risk of injury, means most fighters will only take on two to three fights a year to allow their bodies to recover.

“This pension fund is the right thing to do. It allows these athletes to save money for their retirement and creates a financial safety net to pay for medical bills,” said Haney. “It’s the first of its kind in the world of MMA and it's an important step to support these athletes who make MMA one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.”

The pension fund would not be funded by State dollars. Instead, it would be financed through ticket sales, sports paraphernalia, and souvenirs. For every ticket sold, $1 would go towards the MMA Fighters Pension Fund. MMA fighters would become vested between 12-14 fights, which is around 39 scheduled rounds at Commission regulated MMA events. 

Combat sports promoters like UFC and Bellator would make regular payments into the fund, which will provide a source of income for fighters after they’ve retired. The amount of money a fighter can collect in the pension fund will depend on the number of fights they have competed in and the length of their career. 

“MMA fighters should be respected and well-compensated, not treated as entertainment to be discarded once their job is done,” said Haney. “Athletes, who dedicate their lives to their sport deserve to have financial security when they retire due to the physical toll they often face. It is a necessary recognition of their hard work and immense contributions to the sport.” 

“This bill is one of the first times I’m seeing folks think of these athletes as people rather than just a product,” said Rousey. “And this bill isn’t just good for the fighters, it's good for California. Fighters have a say in where fights are located, and they’re going to choose to have fights here in California because it’s an investment in their future.