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UFC Sued by Fighters in Class-Action Lawsuits: Latest Details and Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 16, 2014

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Current and former fighters have filed multiple class-action lawsuits against the UFC on Tuesday substantial amount of money on the grounds it violated antitrust laws. Three such antitrust lawsuits have been confirmed thus far.

Continue for updates.


Fighters File Third Lawsuit Against UFC

Wednesday, Dec. 24

John S. Nash of Bloody Elbow provides an update on the latest antitrust lawsuit filed against the UFC:

Another antitrust suit has been filed in the California Northern District Court against Zuffa, LLC, the majority owner of the UFC: 5:14-cv-05621 Vera et al v. Zuffa, LLC. The plaintiffs this time are listed as former UFC fighters Pablo Garza and Brandon Vera. The complaint has been assigned to Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins.

 


Another Complaint Filed Against UFC

Monday, Dec. 22

Brent Brookhouse and John S. Nash of Bloody Elbow reveal another complaint has been filed against the UFC:

With little fanfare a  second class action lawsuit was apparently filed earlier today with the California‘s Northern District Court. Vazquez et al v. Zuffa, LLC. This was discovered while Bloody Elbow was searching the Court's system for any updates to the complaint that was filed last Tuesday. This complaint appears to be identical with one obvious difference being that instead of Cung LeNate Quarry, and Jon Fitch as the plaintiffs the names on the complaint are Javier Vazquez and Dennis Hallman.


Fighters File Class-Action Lawsuit Against UFC

Tuesday, Dec. 16

Brent Brookhouse and John S. Nash of Bloody Elbow shared what the fighters are pursuing:

Several of the individuals we spoke to compared it to the recent San Jose hi-tech employee and NCAA antitrust cases. The manager of one high profile fighter who wished to remain anonymous has informed Bloody Elbow that the plaintiffs will be seeking damages for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars due to reduced fight purses, video game rights fees, and other sources of income. The final amount could even be greater, with statutes awarding "treble damages" in antitrust cases.

UFC responded with a statement on its website that reads, "The UFC is aware of the action filed today but has not been served, nor has it had the opportunity to review the document. The UFC will vigorously defend itself and its business practices."

According to a separate report from Brookhouse released on Tuesday, three of the fighters involved in the lawsuit are Jon Fitch, Cung Le and Nate Quarry. Brookhouse provided details on the specifics of the lawsuit:

The suit alleges that the UFC has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act via an illegal scheme to eliminate competition. The result of these tactics is a marketplace where fighters are only able to earn a fraction of what they would in a competitive marketplace (along with fighters being forced to give up the rights to their name and likeness in perpetuity...etc).

Per Damon Martin of Fox Sports, Le and Quarry are represented by the same manager in mixed martial arts:

Damon Martin @DamonMartin

The three plaintiffs named in the suit thus far are Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch. Le and Quarry share the same MMA manager as well

Brookhouse was quick to note that those three aren't the only fighters involved in the suit:

Brent Brookhouse @brentbrookhouse

It's worth noting that people shouldn't confuse this with meaning Le, Fitch and Quarry are the only fighters involved

Greg Savage of Sherdog.com noted more specifics about the lawsuit, including the title and when it was filed:

Greg Savage @TheSavageTruth

The civil action is entitle Cung Le, et al v. Zuffa, LLC, d/b/a Ultimate Fighting Championship and UFC.

Greg Savage @TheSavageTruth

The case was filed today in the Northern District of California in San Jose. It seeks treble damages and injunctive relief under the ...

Greg Savage @TheSavageTruth

Sherman Antitrust Act.

Phoenix-based lawyer Rob Maysey told ESPN's Outside The Lines, via John Barr of ESPN.com, that he's had interactions in the past with UFC management to warn it about the possibility of a lawsuit like the one it's currently facing:

I called [the UFC] in 2006 and said 'You have a choice.' I said, 'You guys are going to recognize a fighters' association or you're going to face an antitrust case. 

They [The UFC] have become the only game in town and locked down the entire sport. ...  At its heart, this lawsuit is about fundamental fairness. The world-class athletes that comprise the UFC are making enormous sacrifices and taking huge risks. It is a basic right that these athletes enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Brookhouse and Nash also state in the original report that UFC's new sponsorship deal with Reebok "appears to have reached into the suit, resulting in some strategic changes."

UFC and Reebok agreed upon that new deal on Dec. 1, per UFC.com, with UFC Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta saying it's "the biggest non-broadcast partnership that our company has ever signed."

However, the blockbuster agreement has not been met with praise from all UFC fighters. Heavyweight Brendan Schaub, who co-hosts the podcast The Fighter & The Kid, recently claimed that his sponsors were pulling out because of the Reebok deal, via Kelefa Sanneh of The New Yorker.

"I make twice as much money off sponsors than I do what the UFC pays me," Schaub said. Before his latest fight, he claimed that about six of his sponsors pulled out, per Sanneh. 

"It's the lowest I've ever made on sponsorship money," he said. 

Fighters generate income through various sponsorship deals, which can be seen on their attire in the ring and banners that get held over the cage prior to the start of a fight. 

It's unclear how much of a role the Reebok deal is playing in the class-action lawsuit, but Schaub's comments and the details in the lawsuit certainly paint a dark picture of what the future holds for the largest MMA promotion in the world. 

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