There has been a major development, and the UFC has been hit with another antitrust lawsuit.
Yesterday, a new complaint against the UFC was filed in Nevada court, and Bloody Elbow has since obtained a copy of these legal documents. The suit was filed on behalf of UFC veterans Kajan Johnson and CB Dollaway, and as a class action on behalf of other class member fighters against Zuffa, LLC and Endeavor Group Holdings, inc., the parent company and current owners of the UFC.
Dolloway fought 20 times for the UFC — 25, if you count TUF — from 2008 to 2018, while Johnson fought seven times with the promotion from 2014 to 2018.
Although technically a separate lawsuit for now, it is almost identical to the current Le et al v Zuffa complaint, but with the major difference being on the proposed class period. The first complaint has the class period ending on June 30, 2017, while “Plaintiffs Johnson and Dollaway bring this case on behalf of those like themselves who fought a bout promoted by the UFC from July 1, 2017 to the present.”
What does this mean, exactly?
Well, the current class period goes from December 16, 2010 to June 30, 2017, which covers a total of 1215 fighters that fought in a Zuffa event that was held or broadcast in the United States during that period. With the new complaint’s extension of the class period, a few hundred additional fighters should now be class members.
This would also increase the amount of potential damages, as the Plaintiffs are alleging that the UFC scheme has not ended. Based on the estimated damages from the previous period, adding at least another four years to the period could add another $1 billion or more to that total.
The filing probably should not have come as a surprise. It’s been theorized that the class period would be extended if the case dragged on too long. And with a four years statute of limitations for antitrust violations, a new complaint would have to be filed by July 1st to make sure there were no gaps in the class period.
What does the lawsuit allege?
This December will be the 7th anniversary of when the case was first filed by Plaintiffs Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and Jon Fitch, with Javier Vazquez, Kyle Kingsbury and Brandon Vera being added as named Plaintiff’s shortly thereafter.
The Plaintiffs accuse the UFC of engaging in anti-completive Scheme that has given them a monopoly and a monopsony over MMA. The Scheme involved acquiring and foreclosing potential rivals, and using long-term exclusive contracts that both locked fighters into the UFC and denied them to potential competitors. Because of these actions, the Plaintiffs allege the UFC was able to pay much lower than what fighters would have made on a competitive market.
According to evidence presented by the Plaintiffs, UFC fighters share of revenue is only 20% where in other sports leagues like the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA players typical receive around 50% of the leagues revenues. And in boxing, another combat sport, the share is even higher with numbers from 60-70% commonly cited.
This new lawsuit also states that the UFC “now controls approximately 90% of the revenues derived from live Professional MMA bouts” not just in north America, but globally.
The lawsuit has been summed up in the video below:
Judge Boulware has already previously announced that he is granting class certification, which would make it a class action where the Plaintiff’s represent all the other class members, but has yet to issue a written opinion. Until that written opinion comes out, the case is at a stand still. The UFC has already indicated that they plan to appeal class certification. If the appeal is taken up by a higher court, it may be years before we know if the case will go to trial or not as a class action.
The Plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages as compensation and injunctive relief, which would bar the UFC from engaging in what the Plaintiff’s argue is anticompetitive behavior. Under the Sherman Act, any damages awarded by the court would be trebled, meaning tripled, so the already large numbers being asked for could potentially end up being much larger.
What can happen sooner?
While the lawsuit could drag on for years, there can still be quicker developments that lead to something valuable for athletes and many others involved in the sport: information.
Following the original complaint, the UFC was ordered to provide documents, communications, contracts, financials, and other information to the Plaintiffs as part of discovery — some of which have since been unsealed for the public. From fighter pay, to negotiation strategies, to the UFC’s finances, this current lawsuit has brought to light a lot of important information and inner-workings about the sport that would’ve otherwise been kept hidden away from the public.
With the class period being extended, it’s likely the court will order the UFC to provide all relevant materials covered during the new class period. Some of these documents may also eventually become unsealed, meaning much newer information on the UFC and Endeavor’s recent events and business dealings could come to light as well.
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