A first-of-its-kind retirement fund for MMA fighters was signed into law Sunday in California by Gov. Gavin Newsom, per a news release Tuesday.
The new law will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2024, according to California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) executive officer Andy Foster. CSAC will be tasked with setting up how the retirement fund will be implemented.
Several well-known fighters spoke on behalf of the bill in front of the California legislature, including UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber, top UFC featherweight Josh Emmett and women’s MMA pioneer Cat Zingano. Ronda Rousey, one of the biggest stars in UFC history, also supported the bill publicly.
The bill-turned-law was sponsored by Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco.
Any MMA fighter who has fought in at least 39 rounds in CSAC-sanctioned fights held in the state will be eligible for funds starting when they are at least 50 years old. The money for the fund will be generated in several ways, including through ticket sales for MMA events in California. The state is also working on selling vanity license plates related to MMA with all proceeds going toward the fund, per Foster.
“We’re full steam ahead on trying to figure out ways to not only help the fighters but to increase the revenue of these funds that will help them more,” Foster told ESPN.
California has had a pension fund for boxers since 1982, but when MMA was first legalized in the state in 2006, athletes in that sport were never given their own version. No other state has a retirement or pension fund for MMA fighters. Athletes in MMA don’t have any kind of collective bargaining, neither a union nor an association.
“You have a much shorter window [in MMA] because your body takes so much more of a heavier toll,” Rousey told ESPN in February. “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.
“It’s when you’re dealing with the repercussions of that career is when you no longer have that income stream.”