(SAN JOSE, Calif. -Dec. 16, 2014) Three current and former
high-profile Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters filed a
multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuit today against the
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organization, accusing the
$2-billion outfit of illegally maintaining monopoly and monoposony
power by systematically eliminating competition from rival
promoters, artificially suppressing fighters' earnings from bouts
and merchandising and marketing activities through restrictive
contracting and other exclusionary practices.
The civil action - Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC, d/b/a
Ultimate Fighting Championship and UFC - filed today in the
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San
Jose, seeks treble damages and injunctive relief under the Sherman
Antitrust Act stemming from the UFC's alleged "over-arching,
anti-competitive scheme to enhance its monopoly power" in the
market for promotion of live Elite Professional MMA bouts, and
monopsony power in the market for live Elite Professional MMA
Fighter services in the U.S. Monopsony refers to when there are
many "sellers" and few "buyers" in the marketplace.
The lawsuit filed by fighters Cung Le, Nathan Quarry and Jon
Fitch, who seek to represent a class of similarly situated current
and former UFC professional combatants, alleges that the plaintiffs
are victims of the UFC's illegal scheme to eliminate its
competition in the sport of MMA and suppress compensation for UFC
Fighters from bouts and fighter identities and likenesses.
According to plaintiffs' counsel Benjamin Brown, of Cohen
Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, "The UFC was built on the
battered bodies of MMA fighters who have left their blood and sweat
in the Octagon. Those fighters are entitled to the benefits
of a competitive market for their talents."
The lawsuit targets defendants Zuffa LLC, the Las Vegas-based
company that conducts business as the UFC. Zuffa is primarily owned
by billionaires Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, along with the UFC's
front-man, President Dana White. White has publicly boasted
about the success of the UFC's alleged illegal scheme, allegedly
claiming that "there is no competition" because "I am the grim
The lawsuit claims that the UFC's alleged anti-competitive acts,
in particular its actions over a period of years, have made and
maintained the UFC as the only option for MMA fighters who want to
earn a viable living in the profession.
"All UFC Fighters are paid a mere fraction of what they would
make in a competitive market," said Brown. "Rather than earning
paydays comparable to boxers - a sport with many natural parallels
- MMA fighters go substantially under-compensated despite the
punishing nature of their profession."
Above all, the lawsuit alleges that the UFC prevents fighters
from working with other MMA promoters, mounting self-promotional
efforts of their own or signing with outside sponsors -
monopolistic practices that suppress fighters' incomes.
According to named plaintiff Cung Le, of San Jose, Calif., an
internationally acclaimed MMA combatant, "Because of the
UFC's coercive practices, competitive market forces have been
strangled, future earnings power of the athletes is stripped away,
and purses to the fighters are artificially depressed."
Plaintiffs' co-counsel and sports law specialist Robert Maysey,
of Warner Angle Hallam Jackson & Formanek PLC, added, "As a
result of the UFC's illegal conduct, they have become the only game
in town and locked down the entire sport. It is ironic that
the fiercest combat athletes in the world have, until now, been
powerless to take on the UFC."
The lawsuit alleges that the UFC has pursued an aggressive
strategy of depriving key inputs to potential rival promoters or
merging with them to maintain its monopoly position. The
complaint alleges "exclusionary scheme" to impair and foreclose
competition, whereby the UFC deprives potential competitors in the
fight promotion market access to elite MMA fighters, premium live
event venues and sponsors.
According to plaintiffs' co-counsel Michael Dell'Angelo, of
Berger & Montague, P.C., "the lawsuit alleges that the UFC has
engaged in an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from rival
MMA promoters by systematically preventing rivals from gaining
access to ingredients critical to successful MMA promotions,
including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters' ability
to fight for rivals during and after their tenure with the
UFC. The UFC also takes the rights to fighters' names and
likenesses in perpetuity. As a result of the UFC's scheme, we
allege that UFC Fighters are paid fraction of what they would earn
in a competitive marketplace."
The lawsuit alleges that as a result of these and other
anti-competitive acts, including the UFC's acquisition of rival
Strikeforce, the UFC has maintained control of more than 90 percent
of the revenue derived from live MMA bouts nationwide.
The lawsuit also alleges that the UFC has retaliated against
fighters who have worked with or who have announced intentions to
work with rival promoters or sponsors by refusing to book their
bouts and/or eliminating them from key UFC promotional activities
such as advertising campaigns and video games.
"UFC's threats are taken seriously by fighters because they know
that a UFC ban will substantially diminish, if not end, their
ability to earn a living at their chosen profession," said
plaintiffs' co-counsel Joseph Saveri of Saveri Law Firm, Inc.
"These MMA professionals deserve the right to take back their
The plaintiffs are represented by nationally respected antitrust
litigation firms Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, Berger &
Montague, P.C., Joseph Saveri Law Firm, Inc. and Warner Angle
Hallam Jackson & Formanek PLC.
FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES CONTACTS:
Pam Avery, pam@turner4D.com / (402)
Patricia Brooks, patricia@turner4D.com
/ (202) 351-1757