The UFC spent millions of dollars in lobbying to get MMA legalized in New York. And it looks like the promotion — as well as others — will have to continue opening the check book.
Under New York's unique $1 million traumatic brain injury insurance provision, the UFC will have to shell out $1,675 per fighter for the policy, promotion officials confirmed with MMA Fighting on Saturday night. That's $43,550 for UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden, which has 13 fights and 26 athletes on the card.
The figure does not include the typical $50,000 medical and $50,000 accidental death insurance policies, which typically cost promoters around $4,000 per card, depending on the state. All told, the UFC could have to pay nearly $50,000 in total insurance money for UFC 205, its first-ever event in New York City.
New York Department of State spokesperson Laz Benitez told ESPN's Brett Okamoto that the state had approved a policy written and sold by insurance company AIG.
Insurance coverage in other states does not include the $1 million traumatic brain injury provision. In California, a comparable state, a promoter is responsible to pay a total of roughly $3,800 in insurance coverage, according to documents obtained by MMA Fighting in a public records request with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).
The dollar amounts will be the same for UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Abdurakhimov on Dec. 9 in Albany. So that card, with 12 fights and 24 fighters official right now, will cost the UFC $40,200 for that traumatic brain injury insurance premium.
The UFC might be able to foot the bill for the high insurance premiums, especially for bigger cards. But other promoters are already feeling the heat.
This week, longtime New York boxing promoter Lou DiBella announced he was pulling his remaining 2016 schedule from New York, including two dates in December at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, because of the new insurance provisions that are contributing to the "extinction of boxing in New York," he said.
"The sport has, for all intents and purposes, been evicted by a legislature willfully ignorant of both the boxing and insurance industries," DiBella said in a press release. "The actions of the powers that be in Albany and their political appointees are depriving New York state residents in the sport of boxing from their livelihoods. Small businesses are being put at jeopardy with no recourse or ability to continue plying their trade. This is a disgraceful abuse of legislative and state power."
In a statement given to MMA Fighting earlier this month, Benitez said the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) insurance requirement is in place for safety reasons. In the event an athlete suffers a debilitating brain injury, they will be covered financially.
"NYSAC's primary objective is to ensure the safest environment for combative sports in the nation so that combat athletes competing in New York State incur the fewest and least severe injuries possible," he said.
Critics have said that the insurance policy doesn't necessarily do anything to prevent injuries on the front end, just exempts promoters and the state from liability in the event of a rare brain injury after the fact.
In addition to the two UFC events, World Series of Fighting is running a card on Dec. 31 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. No other prominent MMA shows have been scheduled in New York, thought Bellator MMA has been licensed as a promoter.