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Ronda Rousey supports California MMA pension fund: ‘If this doesn’t pass, I’ll be extremely disappointed’

UFC Hall Of Fame: Official Class Of 2018 Induction Ceremony Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Count former UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey among the high-profile supporters of a new bill to create a pension fund for MMA fighters in California.

“I was really almost like shocked and encouraged by humanity [that] anyone is even thinking of the fighters after they’re not fighting anymore,” Rousey, an Inland Empire native, told “I just kind of thought that nobody cares ever, that they only want to see us punch each other and it’s really cool and then they forget about us and don’t ever think about us for a second after that.”

The new bill, introduced to the California legislature on Feb. 15 by California State Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), proposes to establish an MMA pension fund using revenue from a tax on MMA event tickets and concessions as well as personal contributions. The fund will be managed by the California State Athletic Commission, which will invest the revenue into an investment account and distribute money to fighters when they schedule a certain number of rounds in the state.

California boxers are unique in combat sports to benefit from a pension fund, which was established in 1982. They are eligible to receive benefits after they turn 50 and have completed 75 rounds. The same age requirement would apply for MMA fighters, but CSAC Executive Director Andy Foster wants them to be eligible when they’ve completed around 13 fights, or between 36 and 39 rounds. (Fighters still get credit for the number of scheduled rounds in a bout.)

Rousey’s mom, AnnMaria De Mars, is a commissioner with the California State Athletic Commission. De Mars, a judo expert who taught Rousey many of her moves, also served on a subcommittee convened this past summer to add MMA fighters to the pension. She suggested Nick and Nate Diaz, with whom Rousey trained, would be ideal candidates for the pension.

In 2012, then-Strikeforce champion Rousey spoke out against a bill that, among other things, added MMA fighters to the California pension for retired boxers. She specifically took aim at regulations designed to eliminate coercive contracts and increase financial transparency for promoters.

“I don’t even think there’s a problem, but even the bill itself, even if there is a problem here, this bill does nothing to help solve it,” she said.

More than a decade after that appearance, the now-retired Rousey praised the new bill.

“This is the first time I’ve really felt that anyone is actually thinking about the fighters themselves, not just the fight, and actually cares about the people and not thinking of us as a product,” Rousey told “And if this doesn’t pass, I’ll be extremely disappointed.

“I can’t think of a single reason why all of these fighters who are literally fighting their hearts out and putting their lives on the line to entertain people haven’t had this support already. And I’m really keeping my fingers crossed — if I could cross them, because they’re so damaged from fighting — that this will pass.”

Haney told MMA Fighting the bill will first be assigned to a committee within the house that will review the bill, likely in March. He expects fighters and former fighters to testify in its favor before it receives a vote by the house; a similar process will take place in the senate. If the bill is passed by two-thirds of the house and senate, it will go to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Haney expects both houses to pass the bill and hopes it will be law by September.

“There’s no cost to the state,” said Haney, an MMA fan who remembers renting early UFCs on VHS from Blockbuster. “We’ve worked out the issues before introduction with the promoters, who are supportive. I think that making sure that it has adequate revenue and that we bring in other opportunities for revenue will be critical.”

Haney said the UFC and Bellator are “not in opposition” to the bill and suggested the promotions consider regular contributions to the fund to potentially expand its reach to fighters who retired before it was implemented. (Reps for both promotions did not provide a comment on Haney’s remarks at the time of publication.)

“I think it’s not fair that they don’t have access to this, but we also have to deal with the reality that we don’t have funds in it yet,” Haney said. “We’re talking about building this fund over the next few decades and having a really enough funds to support all of the fighters as they retire.

“I would hope that it would open opportunities for current fighters and already retired fighters to be able to benefit. ... I think it would only be fair to see direct contributions from the larger promoters and even building contributions to the fund into fight contracts.”

For now, the plan is to set aside $1 from every MMA ticket sold for the pension fund. CSAC’s Foster told ESPN the average distribution to an eligible boxer is $19,000; he expects to raise the per-ticket tax to $1 for boxing events.

In a sport with almost no safety net for aging fighters, Rousey said time is of the essence for an MMA pension fund in California.

“You have a much shorter window [in MMA] because your body takes so much more of a heavier toll,” Rousey told “And the difference with these kind of combat sports, with all this contact and the neurological injuries involved, you don’t know the day that you’ve taken one hit too many. You’re going to find out that you crossed that threshold many decades later when you no longer have that extra income.”

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