CSAC makes progress on adding MMA fighters to the pension fund

The California State Athletic Commission today agreed to form a subcommittee to include MMA fighters in the state’s retired boxer pension program.

The subcommittee will consider several suggestions CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster outlined at Tuesday’s Los Angeles meeting regarding eligibility requirements for MMA fighters, along with how to generate additional revenue for the program, the money from one of funded investment account distributed to Boxer a tax on ticket sales. Boxers are eligible after turning 50 and planning 75 rounds in the state.

The commission must convince California lawmakers to sponsor and pass legislation to retire MMA fighters. Foster said the commission will only get “one chance” to table it by the next legislature in 2023.

“I feel like if they were fighting here they would be entitled to a pension,” Foster said. “It could make the state more competitive if fighters want to be here.”

To make the retirement fund more attractive to MMA fighters, Foster recommends reducing the number of fights scheduled to qualify by scheduling 36 rounds, or between 10 and 12 fights, so they’re more likely to qualify for money when they retire. (Fighters are credited for the full number of scheduled rounds in bouts whether they are completed or not. So if a bout ends in the first round of a three-round bout, the fighter is still credited with three rounds.)

According to Foster, boxers make up 65 percent of licensed fighters in California versus 35 percent of MMA fighters. He said the funds distributed to retired fighters reflected that division.

Currently, the pension is funded primarily through taxes of 88 cents per ticket sold, capped at $4,600 per event. Foster recommends increasing the cap to take advantage of deep promotions. The CSAC CEO also wants to create a special CSAC-branded license plate that will contribute $40 to the retirement fund for every license plate sold. For the full amount of funding — which is estimated to be between $250,000 and $300,000 — to flow into the fund, 7,500 records must be sold in a year, Foster said.

With a long hiatus in live events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission lost a significant chunk of revenue for retirement. Foster believes the increased cap and license plates will give the program a boost.

New CSAC commissioner AnnMaria De Mars, mother of former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, volunteered for the subcommittee and noted that Nick and Nate Diaz would be ideal targets for retirement. The elder Diaz, Nick, would currently qualify with 12 fights in California while Nate would come up short with eight fights.

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