Antitrust Battle Between MMA Fighters and UFC Continues

On April 10, Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”) fighters Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and Nate Quarry filed their opposition to UFC’s motion to dismiss the putative class action and to transfer the venue.

In the court documents, the fighters argued that UFC’s bid to transfer venue was improper because the suit is alleging antitrust violations, not breach of contract.  In response to the UFC’s argument that the plaintiffs did not specify “how the agreements unreasonably restrain competition,” the plaintiffs simply said, “The UFC is wrong.”  They claimed that the UFC’s scheme to restrain competition in the marketplace enabled it to suppress wages below competitive levels.

Further, they argued the exclusionary provisions in the UFC’s contracts with the fighters

“impair actual or potential rivals and enhance its monopoly power . . . .  This practical effect is what matters, not how the Agreements should be interpreted or enforced in a breach of contract case.”

Reiterating their allegations of antitrust violations, the plaintiffs wrote that the UFC’s monopolistic conducts of (1) entering exclusive contracts with “Elite MMA Fighters” and thereby preventing the majority from fighting for rivals, (2) acquiring rival promotion companies, and (3) signing exclusive agreements with major sponsors and venues collectively contributed to establishing its dominant position in the market.

To support the sufficiency of their allegations, the plaintiffs further argued that “the UFC promotes ‘virtually all’ Elite MMA Events, controls 90% of the revenues of those events, and that all the other promotions are basically nothing more than ‘minor leagues.’”

Shortly, the UFC released a response:

“Nothing in their opposition changes our view that their complaints are filled with conclusory allegations that are not adequate to support their antitrust claim.  UFC has competed in a lawful manner that has benefited fighters and built UFC into a premier organization in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.”

The UFC must file a reply by May 1, and a motion to dismiss hearing is currently scheduled on July 23.

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