SBD/July 9, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

UFC Plans To Expand Health Insurance For Fighters To Include Pre-Existing Conditions

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The UFC will expand the health insurance it extended to its fighters last year to include pre-existing injuries and conditions, a decision that the company says will increase premiums it pays for the  approximately 400 fighters it employs globally by about 60%. UFC Chair & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta and President Dana White will inform employees of the change today when the promotion kicks off its two-day Fighter Summit in Las Vegas. White did not reveal how much the sanctioning body pays for insurance, other than to say it was upward of $1M. The UFC always has covered injuries incurred during bouts, White said. But beginning last year it bought coverage to pay for treatment when fighters got hurt in training, as well as for basic health needs. The UFC looked into adding pre-existing conditions when it found many fighters who needed surgery had their claims rejected. “Guys would come in and say ‘I need knee surgery,’ and if your knee was hurt before they weren’t covering it,” White said. “Well, of course they’re going to have had injuries before. They’re fighters. They get hurt. Insuring guys in this sport isn’t easy. But it’s something we felt we needed to do.”

THE SUMMIT: This year marks the fourth annual Fighter Summit for the UFC, which uses the event predominately to educate its athletes on the sort of matters other sporting bodies address with their annual rookie symposiums. The two-day event also will include presentations on financial planning, drug use and social media use. Among the speakers is Pro Football HOFer Michael Irvin, who will speak to fighters about mistakes he made during his playing career. The discussion regarding performance enhancing drugs will include an overview of the UFC’s drug policy. While not instituting its own random mandatory testing -- other than the full workups already required of fighters signing their first UFC contracts -- the UFC says in the policy that it will “encourage fighters to submit to voluntary testing” and take disciplinary measures, including termination, against fighters found to have used prohibited substances.

TONING DOWN TWEETS: While previous social media sessions have encouraged UFC fighters to tweet often to increase their visibility, this one will attempt to tug on the reigns. Several UFC fighters, as well as White and TV analyst Joe Rogan, have been taken to task for inappropriate, insensitive tweets. In April, sponsor Anheuser-Busch came down on the UFC over the matter, issuing a statement that said it had expressed its “displeasure” about some fighters' “inappropriate comments.” “We’re reminding them to use common sense,” White said. “First of all, you’re not comedians. What you think is funny, the rest of the world may not. So keep your jokes to yourself. We’ve had a couple of things happen in social media. Nothing huge. But enough to be annoying.”
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