A group of attorneys and MMA fighters today filed a major class action lawsuit that accuses UFC parent Zuffa of conspiring to monopolize the MMA industry and engaging in anti-competitive practices that have restrained competition and minimized fighters’ ability to earn fair compensation.
“This is an anti-trust suit,” said attorney Rob Maysey, a chief architect of the litigation. “The anti-trust laws of the United States were designed to prevent a firm from dominating a market, artificially stifling competition, and hoarding super-competitive profits for themselves, and that’s exactly what happened in this market.”
The suit involves two ex-UFC fighters, Jon Fitch and Nate Quarry, as well as current UFC fighter Cung Le. Attorneys say the list of plaintiffs could expand as the suit plays out in court, though no additional participants formally have been added.
“I’ve received so many messages from fighters who wish to remain anonymous, but who are putting their full support behind this case,” said Quarry. “This lawsuit really is about fairness. It’s about a fair market value for the athlete.”
Ex-UFC welterweight Carlos Newton also joined the plaintiffs at a news conference in San Jose, Calif., where the 63-page complaint was filed in U.S. District Court, and endorsed the suit.
“The UFC is the fastest growing monopoly in the world, and I’m here to fix that and address that,” he said.
Monopoly and its legal cousin, monopsony, are the terms most frequently used in the class-action lawsuit when describing the UFC and its behavior in the marketplace. Here are some key allegations against the UFC from the document:
* Engaged in an “anticompetitive scheme” to “maintain and enhance” its monopoly on promoting MMA events and held “monopsony power” in the marketplace for fighters.
* Enforced its monopoly by signing fighters to long-term exclusive contracts “and other exclusionary and anticompetitive acts.”
* Exerted control over fighters by leveraging potential title bouts.
* Used its monopoly and monopsony power to artificially “suppress compensation” for UFC fighters and “to expropriate UFC Fighters’ identities and likenesses inappropriately.
* Required fighter sponsors to work exclusively with the UFC and refused to contract with a sponsor that worked with a rival MMA promoter.
* Created and held a dominant position in the business by purchasing competitors or driving them out of business by raising costs on acquiring talent and resources.
* Refused to co-promote with other potential promoters in an effort to increase control on fighters.
* Left the MMA marketplace with “fringe competitors,” which, “as a general matter, do not and cannot successfully compete directly with the UFC — or entities that have essentially been conscripted by the UFC … into acting as the UFC’s ‘minor leagues,’ developing talent for the UFC but not competing directly with it.”
* “Publicly touted” its success in stifling competition.
* Forced major venues where fights are held to contract exclusively with the promotion.