The California State Athletic Commission today agreed to form a subcommittee on adding MMA fighters to the state’s pension program for retired boxers.
The subcommittee will review several proposals outlined by CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster at meeting on Tuesday in Los Angeles regarding the eligibility requirements for MMA fighters, along with how to raise additional revenue for the program, which distributes money to boxers from an investment account funded by a tax on ticket sales. Boxers are eligible after they turn 50 and schedule 75 rounds in the state.
The commission needs to convince California legislators to sponsor and pass a bill to add MMA fighters to the pension. Foster said the commission will get just “one shot” to submit it by the next legislative session in 2023.
“I have a feeling that if they fought here they’d be eligible for a pension,” Foster said. “It might make out state more competitive for fighters to want to be here.”
To make the pension fund more attractive to MMA fighters, Foster recommends lowering the number of scheduled bouts to qualify for it by scheduling 36 rounds, or between 10 and 12 fights, so they are more likely to qualify for money at retirement. (Fighters are given credit for the full number of scheduled rounds in fights whether or not they are completed, so if a fight ends in the first round of a three-round fight, the fighter still gets credit for three rounds.)
Foster said boxers represent 65 percent of licensed combatants in California to 35 percent MMA fighters. He said the funds distributed to retired fighters would reflect that split.
Currently, the pension is primarily funded by tax of 88 cents per ticket sold that’s capped at $4,600 per event. Foster recommends raising the cap to capitalize on deep-pocketed promotions. The CSAC executive director also wants to create a specialty license plate with CSAC branding that will put $40 in the pension fund for every plate sold. For the full amount of funding — estimated at between $250,000 and $300,000 — to go into the fund, 7,500 plates need to be sold within a year, Foster said.
With a long pause on live events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission lost a sizable amount of the revenue for the pension. Foster believes the raised cap and license plates will give the program a boost.
New CSAC commissioner AnnMaria De Mars, the mother of former UFC champ Ronda Rousey, volunteered to be on the subcommittee, noting Nick and Nate Diaz would be ideal targets for the pension. The elder Diaz, Nick, would currently qualify with 12 California fights while Nate would fall short with eight fights.