File this development under the “good-ish” category.
The New York State Athletic Commission has found an insurer who has put together a policy which can be purchased by persons wishing to stage combat sports fight cards in NY state, as per a story by ESPN's Dan Rafael.
That's good, as it means the Jan 14 show at Barclays Center is on track to unfurl seamlessly, because the promoters will be on the same page as the NYSAC, and be using this new coverage put together by the United States Fire Insurance Company. But wait…the cost of the policy would make staging a smaller show, without the the backing of a major tv backer, as Showtime is for the Barclays show, difficult. To meet the $1 million per fighter coverage for catastrophic brain injury, it looks like the new policy will be around four times more expensive than previous policies called for.
This is a new era in combat sports oversight in NY. The December 2014 tragedy at the MSG Theater, which saw heavyweight contender Magomed Abdusalsmov take punushment which resulted in severe brain trauma, changed the game. When MMA lobbying finally broke though, and mixed martial arts was made legal in the state, earlier this year, new legislation was crafted to shore up medical coverage for participants. The legislation is crafted to demand coverage far and away higher than in any other jurisdiction, anywhere.
This leaves promoters like Joe DeGuardia, Lou Dibella, Dmitriy Salita, Ronson Frank and Mercedes Vazquez-Simons on the hook for paying more for insurance then they might be able to net in putting on a show.
“It is our understanding that a combat sports insurance policy has been approved with an insurance carrier (United States Fire Insurance Company) and will soon be made available to promoters,” NYSAC spokesman Laz Benitez told me.
“The policy is still cost prohibitive for the regular club show or a regional tv show,” DeGuardia told me. “But the legislature is back in session in January and we boxing people will be lobbying hard. So many legislators we spoke to had no idea that the new regulations would impact the sport like this.”
I floated to him the concept of maybe doing pro/am shows as a way to swallow the higher cost and he pointed out that setup makes it impossible for the ladder climbers to get local gigs. The four round fighters, where will they go to get fights? They need to sell tickets to get on shows, to financially justify their inclusion. Their peeps won't so readily to travel to CT or NJ or what have you….
Ndidi Massay is the interim chair of the commission, installed after Tom Hoover was bounced, and censured for inappropriate conduct, which included attempting to secure improper perks through his power and position. Promoters would like Massay and company to exert their right as installed in the legislation to adjust the coverage amount for paying out on a brain injury.
The new law states, “The commission may from time to time promulgate regulations to adjust the amount of such minimum [medical insurance] limits.”
Note the wording. “Adjust.” That would indicate the powers that be could lower the insurance ask, and make smaller shows viable again. As of today, still, they are not viable. So while some applause might be called for with an insurance policy for the big time cards being crafted, there is no cause for joy for the little guys. The club show runners, the local heroes and rising stars are still, by and large, left out in the cold.
Here is the release which went out in August, announcing the welcoming of MMA to NY.
The New York Department of State announced the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) will begin accepting new combative sports license applications on Thursday, September 1, 2016. The announcement follows NYSAC’s final approval today of regulations implementing and governing combative sports in New York State.
“Today, New York State opens its doors to mixed martial arts, and begins writing a new chapter in our rich history as a mecca for combat athletes,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “These regulations will protect the health and safety of combat athletes in New York State, and enhance the experience of combative sports for fans and competitors alike.”
Applications for licensure from prospective fighters, officials and promoters can be found here. The Commission had previously put forth proposed regulations and provided a 45-day public comment period for stakeholder feedback before approving the final rules.
The Department received several comments to this rulemaking. Some identified purely technical issues and others provided suggestions to amend proposed language in order to clarify intent and meaning. Many such suggestions were accepted and have been incorporated into the text.
However, a number of comments were directed towards the insurance requirements. Many opined that while they recognize and agree with the need to protect participants in New York, the minimum insurance coverage requirements are anticipated to be too costly. Despite such comments, the Commission is approving these regulations to meet the legislative mandate by implementing the most robust insurance requirements in the country, while preserving the opportunity for professional combative sports events to occur in a well-regulated and practicable manner within the State.
The regulations promulgated today strike a reasonable and appropriate balance, acknowledging both the anticipated costs to promoters and the increased protections afforded in the event of injury, including life-threatening brain injury, to the participants it licenses.
MMA’s expansion into New York is projected to yield more than $137 million in economic activity for the state’s economy, roughly half of which is expected to be spent in Upstate New York, and result in $5.4 million in state and local taxes on an annual basis.