Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

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Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

Post by WyldeMan on 12/25/2014, 6:39 pm

You can tell a given moment is momentous when a simple date won't suffice.

When you bring exact times into it, you're probably in red-letter territory. It thus felt appropriate that when legal reps for three elite MMA fighters announced they had officially filed suit against the UFC in a case that could change MMA forever, they added the hour and minute: 12:45 p.m., Tuesday, December 16.

The minute was a line in the sand, after which point things for MMA were different. Brought by UFC middleweight Cung Le, former UFC title challenger and current World Series of Fighting welterweight Jon Fitch and retired UFC middleweight Nate Quarry, the suit was formally made public Tuesday afternoon in a news conference and media call in which Bleacher Report participated.

The plaintiffs are seeking as-of-yet-unspecified damages (though it may reach nine figures, according to Brent Brookhouse and John S. Nash of Bloody Elbow). Along with Fitch, Le and Quarry, other parties, including fighters, can and just might join the suit later, attorneys said. Packing both MMA star power and legal firepower, the plaintiffs appear to have assembled a formidable challenge to the UFC status quo.

Before we go any further, let's make the statement that should be obvious but isn't in this world where technical pseudo-experts swarm in droves and attack in packs: No one knows how this will play out. Not even Internet writers and article commenters.

However, there is one firm statement that can be comfortably made: Over the coming months or years, the UFC is going to find itself in a protracted fight, one it won't be able to tamp down with the bluster and strong-arm tactics that have characterized many of its other public confrontations. For that reason alone, this case is virtually unprecedented.

But back to the case for a moment. The complaint document, which you can read in its entirety here, summarizes the lawsuit clearly:

The UFC has engaged in an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from would-be rival MMA Promoters by systematically preventing them from gaining access to resources critical to successful MMA Promotions, including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters’ ability to fight for would-be rivals during and after their tenure with the UFC. As part of the scheme, the UFC not only controls Fighters’ careers, but also takes and expropriates the rights to their names and likenesses in perpetuity. As a result of this scheme, UFC Fighters are paid a fraction of what they would earn in a competitive marketplace.

In general terms, the suit alleges, among other, more granular accusations, that the UFC and parent company Zuffa underpay its fighters, suppress competition by buying and dismantling other promotions (Pride and Strikeforce, for example) and control the way fighters use their own names and likenesses in products like video games.

These accusations are nothing new. What's new is that a group of attorneys are now claiming they can prove these practices break the law, most notably the Sherman Act, which provides the framework for U.S. antitrust rules.

Over the years, Zuffa leaders, especially UFC President Dana White, hasn't exactly kept its strategy under wraps.

“There is no competition," White told MMAjunkie.com in 2010 in an interview quoted by the complaint. "We’re the NFL. You don’t see people looking at the NFL and going, ‘Yeah, but he’s not the best player in the world because there’s a guy playing for the Canadian Football League or the Arena League over here.’ We’re the NFL. There is no other guy.”

That's exactly the kind of mentality that plaintiffs are out to exploit. Sports leagues like the NFL, the suit states, typically include a group of teams that compete against one another for athletes, with none centrally controlling league operations.

Contrasted with that model, does the UFC constitute an illegal monopoly? Should other promotions like Bellator and WSOF be considered legitimate competitors to the UFC, or are they clear "minor leagues"? That's what this lawsuit will ultimately decide.

"Today, there is only one real promotional option for elite MMA: the UFC," said Joseph Saveri, the plaintiffs' co-counsel and lead attorney for the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, during Tuesday's news conference. "The purpose is to right this wrong, change the status quo and restore healthy competition."

Credit where it's due: Le, Fitch and Quarry know how to lawyer up. They've hired some very heavy hitters in the world of antitrust and class-action litigation. Saveri and his firm recently won a big antitrust ruling against Silicon Valley giants like Apple and Intel. Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll have won major decisions over the likes of Dow Chemical. It's fair to conclude that the plaintiffs aren't cutting corners in the deployment of legal resources for this case.

In its response to the suit, the UFC did not back down one iota, noting in an unattributed statement published online that it "will vigorously defend itself and its business practices."

That reaction is decidedly unsurprising. Throughout its existence, Zuffa has shown a pluck and ready willingness to defend itself—and attack its opponents—that dovetails perfectly with the confrontational product it peddles. Problem is, those confrontations are usually in the UFC's own sandbox and against opponents who are, for various reasons, not in the best position to fight back.

What is surprising is that this time is different. Look at all that legal muscle the plaintiffs are deploying in their attempt to force the UFC to change the way it operates.

Will it work? Nobody knows. But the UFC is going into deep waters this time with an opponent that appears to be pretty close to its own size. For Zuffa and the UFC, that makes this a real landmark.
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Re: Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

Post by WyldeMan on 12/25/2014, 6:44 pm

It's about god damned time....I've been an MMA fan for years and I've seen promotion after promotion taken over, completely dismantled and shut down by the UFC. I've been reading interviews with fighters for years including Finch and especially Quarry about how they were being prevented from fighting.




There were many cases where I can recall reading of fighters being released and UFC had put in their contracts that after the contract ended they were unable to fight for another promotion for sometimes up to 3 years. Also the likeness bit too, fighters not being allowed to take their own names with them.




It's crazy crazy stuff, at one point I remember Dana White posing for a picture with a gravestone that had all the MMA promotions they'd bought and killed and Dana had a shit eating grin and a caption where he proudly called himself the "Mother Fucking Grim Reaper".




The UFC has only been able to acquire all of these companies because of the Ferttita's bank roll. And while yes MMA would not be anything close to what it is today without the UFC, without great competition you get the same stale product they've been selling us for the last four years now.

Two more fighters have also joined this suit since yesterday, one of them Brandon Vera, another mildly big name amongst fight fans.
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Re: Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

Post by GrooThePerverted on 12/25/2014, 6:58 pm

This is about an open and shut case as can be fucking possible I would imagine.
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Re: Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

Post by WyldeMan on 12/26/2014, 11:17 am

@GrooThePerverted wrote:This is about an open and shut case as can be fucking possible I would imagine.

It always reminded me of exactly how Vince McMahon would buy up the competition and then shut it all down, WCW and ECW are perfect examples of that. Guess nobody ever wanted to take on that empire. Frankly, I'm surprised anybody is taking on the UFC all connections considered....
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Re: Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

Post by WyldeMan on 12/31/2014, 7:22 pm

Son of a bitch and here I was just saying otherwise.

After the recent situations with CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio, WWE has put in all performer contracts a stipulation that states if they are fired for disciplinary reasons, they forfeit all merchandise rights and they can't work in either pro wrestling or mixed-martial-arts for a full year.

It's believed that such a stipulation would not hold up in court, however it would take a lot of money and resources to challenge it and find out, and most talents are that well off to take that kind of chance.
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Re: Is The UFC Violating Anti-Trust Laws?

Post by GrooThePerverted on 12/31/2014, 7:53 pm

UFC Hires Powerful New York Law Firm in Antitrust Lawsuit Defense




The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Tuesday issued a statement defending its position in the recent antitrust lawsuits filed against it.

The initial UFC lawsuit centered around antitrust issues was filed on Tuesday, Dec. 16, when a legal team representing plaintiffs Cung LeJon Fitch, and Nate Quarry filed the suit in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, in San Jose, Calif. The second such suit was filed on Monday, Dec. 22, on behalf of Javier Vasquez and Dennis Hallman. The third such suit was filed on Christmas Eve on behalf of Brandon Vera and Pablo Garza.

The various suits allege that the “UFC has engaged in an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from would-be rival MMA Promoters by systematically preventing them from gaining access to resources critical to successful MMA Promotions, including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters’ ability to fight for would-be rivals during and after their tenure with the UFC. As part of the scheme, the UFC not only controls Fighters’ careers, but also takes and expropriates the rights to their names and likenesses in perpetuity. As a result of this scheme, UFC Fighters are paid a fraction of what they would earn in a competitive marketplace.”

As expected, the UFC stands firm in its belief that it has properly built its business, and intends to defend its position.


“We have built a popular business from modest beginnings by meeting the needs of fans and fighters. Millions of people have watched our bouts, we have instituted leading health and safety measures for our athletes, and fighters are free to negotiate contract terms,” read the UFC’s statement.

“We will stand up against the plaintiffs in this litigation every step of the way, and have engaged attorneys from Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP with a depth of experience in antitrust issues.”

The attorneys at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP have been involved in several notable cases, including United States vs. Microsoft, Bush vs. Gore, and the National Football League’s defense against the antitrust litigation initiated by the NFL Players Association.

The firms filing the suits on behalf of the fighters include the Joseph Saveri Law Firm; Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC; and Berger & Montague, P.C., all of which are noted for dealing with antitrust issues.

Bill Isaacson, the UFC’s lead litigator, said, “The antitrust laws have long favored companies that create new products and services that consumers want. That is exactly what the UFC has done here through its long and substantial investment in building a popular sport.”

The UFC statement went on to say, “We are proud of the company we have built, confident in our legal position, and intend to prevail in this lawsuit.”
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