A pension fund for MMA fighters is not all as it seems

Three weeks ago, Melody Gutierrez in The LA Times opened up an old wound for those of us who have been covering the California State Athletic Commission for decades: the dreaded state boxing pension fund.

It was created in 1982 and has been notoriously mismanaged. The majority of boxers who had contributions made to the pension fund, on their behalf, never saw a dime. Many of these boxers are African-American and Hispanic.

So, of course, in the infinite wisdom of the state of California, the Legislature is on track to pass a Mixed Martial Arts version of this pension fund. It’s been heavily promoted by those in California MMA circles as a good development.

How do you reconcile the fact that you’re creating a new pension based on a broken pension system?

Andy Foster, the commission’s executive officer, defended the program and its aims while acknowledging its shortcomings, including six years in the 2000s when not a single pension was paid. The regulatory agency is short-staffed, and Foster said there isn’t a “budget for finding people.”

Nevertheless, he is championing proposed legislation to create a pension plan for mixed martial arts, another combat sport regulated by the commission.

“The thing ain’t perfect,” said Foster. “Nobody else is doing nothing. So if we get a C-plus, they get an F.”

The Los Angeles Times

This goes back to when California legalized MMA in 2006. Instead of adding MMA fighters to the boxing pension fund, they excluded them. Here we are 17 years later and now state officials are trying to address the matter. Too little, too late?

We’ll focus on this issue, along with several other highly charged hot potatoes in our upcoming long-form Bloody Elbow article about who benefited from this giant mess in California and just how much money was really lost in the process.

Bloody Elbow’s special investigation into California’s controversial boxing pension fund, and how it might be adapted to MMA, can be read on the Bloody Elbow Substack page starting Monday, June 12.

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About the author
Zach Arnold
Zach Arnold

Zach Arnold first started writing about combat sports in 1996. He is a veteran professional wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts writer who frequently covered both the California and Nevada athletic commissions starting in 2010. His archived writings can be found at Fight Opinion.

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