This landmark class action lawsuit has the potential to bring about massive changes to the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts as a whole, and it looks like they’re serious about proceeding quickly. Soon after class certification was granted, we now have a date for when the court wants the trial to happen.
UFC antitrust lawsuit trial date set
According to Bloody Elbow’s sources and business expert John Nash, the court has just informed both the Plaintiffs and the Defendants that the trial date for the UFC antitrust lawsuit is going to be set for April 8, 2024.
This trial date of course, would still depend on the outcome of Zuffa’s current appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
UFC recently filed a rule 23(f) petition trying to appeal Judge Boulware’s August 9th ruling to grant class certification, and allow Le V Zuffa to proceed as a class action lawsuit. The Defendants are contesting multiple aspects of his 80 page written opinion and asking the 9th Circuit to review Boulware’s decision. Amongst the many items they are contesting are the use of wage share, that the model used does not prove fighters were foreclosed by 30-month contracts, that the court should wait for the results of the Google Play decision in front of the 9th Circuit, and that the Plaintiffs’ novel wage-share monopsony theory could lead to a flood of antitrust cases.
The Chamber of Commerce filed an amicus brief in support of the Defendant’s petition last week. With the Ninth Circuit estimated to reject 80% of appeals though, such a filing may be well received by the UFC.
Fighters respond to UFC’s appeal; decision could come soon
Attorneys of the fighters have officially issued their response the UFC’s August 23 appeal. Bloody Elbow has since obtained a copy of this latest UFC antitrust lawsuit filing from the plaintiffs.
“The petition should be denied,” fighters’ attorneys wrote. They called UFC’s main point a “straw man” argument, and didn’t address the “extensive evidence” that supported their class certification.
In the UFC’s appeal, they warned that allowing the class action lawsuit to proceed “will unleash a new breed of antitrust class actions that cannot disentangle procompetitive conduct from anticompetitive conduct.” They also noted how this could “create pressure to settle despite the weakness of plaintiffs’ claims.”
The Plaintiffs responded that such concerns are misguided since the Court has made it clear that it would be used for the “very specific and unique labor market” that is sports, and there was little risk it would be applied to standard antitrust cases.
Fighters’ attorneys filed their rebuttals to the UFC’s every point, and also noted how Zuffa’s previous requests, like asking for additional discovery, only increases the costs and stakes involved. “That would make no sense if Zuffa felt coerced to settle this action despite its alleged doubts about the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims.”
With fighters issuing a response to the UFC’s appeal, we will now have 90 days or less before the Ninth Circuit makes their ruling. If the UFC becomes part of the overwhelming majority of appeals that get rejected by them, we could see things progress very quickly soon after.
If the UFC antitrust lawsuit reaches trial, April 8 could be a very important date for the sport of mixed martial arts.
Additional reporting by John S. Nash.
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