Back on Saturday, amid the UFC on Fox prelims, Bloody Elbow broke a story about a class-action lawsuit being filed by fighters suing the UFC for anti-trust practices. While big news, the suit hadn’t yet been filed, so there were no actual names, which led me to speculate that it might just be disgruntled former fighters like Randy Couture, the Shamrocks, and Tito Ortiz on the docket, with no currently active fighters listed. I figured if there weren’t any guys on the roster to add some power, the suit would fizzle out, so I stayed my typing hand.
On Tuesday, the suit was officially filed, and the named plaintiffs were Nate Quarry, Jon Fitch, and Cung Le, with the option for any fighter that had competed in the UFC in North America from December 2010 onwards to join the suit as an additional plaintiff. According to Cohen Milstein, the law firm that actually filed the suit, the complaint states:
“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.”
Benjamin Brown, one of the lawyers for Cohen Milstein added:
“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.
All UFC Fighters are paid a mere fraction of what they would make in a competitive market. 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.”
Cung Le went on record as saying:
“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”
Let’s see what other fighters think!
Current UFC fighter and two time knockout of the night recipient, Ryan “Big Deal” Jimmo took to Twitter to vent his frustration with the UFC and his lack of compensation. He also recently voiced his displeasure with his seats at two UFC events, so maybe this has been brewing with Jimmo for some time.
Former UFC fighter and current commercial fisherman and sometimes fighter, Cody McKenzie also weighed in on the issue during an interview with Ground and Pound TV:
“Yeah, I mean, no one’s got a hold of me, I fought for the UFC for five years or whatever. And fought a bunch of times for free for them and all this other bullsh*t. UFC’s a joke, I mean they rip guys off, they treat them like sh*t. I mean, they have a few guys that they treat good, but I wasn’t one of them. I was the bum they called last minute notice, and I took whatever fight came my way. Like when I fought the number two ranked guy in the world, it’s my only bad fight I think I’ve ever had in my career, really, where I got just wiped out. I got hit in the liver, which anyone that’s ever fought knows how is. Like, Dana White made fun of me after, like on the press conference. Not to my face, or I’d beat him, but like on a press conference, he made a joke about it, like “He’s just a clown”. UFC, I hope they get sued for millions and millions. I doubt I’ll see a penny of it. Yeah, I frickin’ hope the lawsuit goes through and I hope they get sued for millions. F*ck the UFC.”
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.
Meanwhile, a scan of Dana White’s twitter and instagram accounts show nothing but surfing and tuna fishing pictures as he’s apparently on vacation. I’m not sure if this was conveniently planned, or if Lorenzo Fertitta, knowing that Dana’s a volatile guy, sent him to Fiji so he wouldn’t say anything inflammatory.
On one hand, it’s hard not to see UFC as a monopoly, since there are a lot of people that don’t know that there’s anything beyond the Ultimate Fighting Championships in the world of MMA. Plus, when the president of the company is gleefully boasting on twitter, or to reporters and investors that there is no competition for the UFC since all of the worthwhile organizations are either dead or have been bought out, it’s hard not to take that as the truth.
On the other hand, Bellator has backing from Viacom, World Series of Fighting has had a television deal since its inception, and One FC in Asia seems to be paying guys like Bibiano Fernandes and Ben Askren good wages (Though the suit specifically limits the monopoly to North American-based MMA organizations, but One FC is still an alternative organization). Though, Ben was mentioned in the suit:
“Ben Askren (“Askren”), a former Bellator welterweight champion, represented the U.S. Olympic wrestling team in freestyle wrestling, was a four-time NCAA All-American, two-time nationalchampion, and NCAA wrestler of the year. Askren publicly stated that the only means of moving up the MMA ranks and obtaining notoriety as an Elite Professional MMA Fighter was to join the UFC and defeat UFC Fighters”
Ultimately, I think that fighters should be earning more money (In which case a union might not be a bad idea), but since any form of litigation seems to take forever, don’t expect a ruling before UFC 500 airs. Also, since Dana White fled Boston and his boxercise class after he got shaken down by Whitey Bulger, I fully expect him to burn UFC to ashes rather than pay out one dollar, let alone the treble damages being asked for in the suit.