Cung Le, Jon Fitch and Nate Quarry Spearhead Lawsuit Claiming UFC Killed Competition

December 16, 2014
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The UFC anti-trust lawsuit that has been widely speculated over the past few days became a reality on Tuesday when a legal team representing plaintiffs Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and Nate Quarry filed the suit in the United States District Court, Northern District of California, in San Jose, Calif.

Cung Le - Jon Fitch - Nate QuarryThe suit alleges that the “UFC has engaged in an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from would-be rival MMA Promoters by systematically preventing them from gaining access to resources critical to successful MMA Promotions, including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters’ ability to fight for would-be rivals during and after their tenure with the UFC. As part of the scheme, the UFC not only controls Fighters’ careers, but also takes and expropriates the rights to their names and likenesses in perpetuity. As a result of this scheme, UFC Fighters are paid a fraction of what they would earn in a competitive marketplace.”

In a press conference announcing the suit on Tuesday, lawyers from several firms noted for anti-trust issues were in attendance in San Jose alongside Le and Quarry, who were there in person; Fitch, who was on the phone for the conference; and former UFC champion Carlos Newton, who was also in attendance lending his support, although he is not currently named as a plaintiff in the suit.

SEE ALSO: Fighters Take to Twitter to React to UFC-Reebok Uniform Deal

The firms representing the fighters include the Joseph Saveri Law Firm; Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC; and Berger & Montague, P.C.

The fighters and their attorneys are essentially alleging that the UFC has conducted its business and structured contracts in a manner that has shut down any competitive market. They say the UFC used a series of exclusive arrangements to keep the fighters locked up and then bought out and shut down its competitors, leaving elite fighters with no way to obtain worthy compensation.

“This lawsuit is really about fairness. It’s about a fair market for the athletes. And over and over again we’ve seen that that’s just not the case,” said Quarry, who was a cast member on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter and fought for several years in the UFC before retiring.

“The UFC has taken over the entire industry and dictated its terms upon the fighters without any say. We don’t have any rights. It’s the word that comes down. This is the new religion as it were.”

That is what the fighters and their attorneys say they are trying to change, a landscape where elite fighters either perform under the absolute terms of the UFC without any wiggle room or fight for peanuts elsewhere.

SEE ALSO: UFC Uniform Sponsorship Payouts to be Determined by Rankings

“We deserve a free marketplace where we can complete. Not just to be dictated; this is your salary and this is what your value is,” he continued. “We deserve to be out in a free marketplace where we can compete for ourselves. And we deserve to have a say in our careers, where we’re going, who we’re fighting, the title fight, where our likeness is used. There are things the UFC has taken and taken from granted for far too long.

“If we don’t take a stand now, nothing is going to change.”

Neither Quarry nor Fitch has any remaining ties to the UFC, but Le, however, is still under contract with the promotion, although he recently asked to be released after he squabbled with the UFC over the handling of a drug test and suspension in relation to his last fight.

“I’m honored to be part of this lawsuit against the UFC for all the past UFC fighters like Carlos Newton and Nate (Quarry) and for all the future fighters,” said Le. “And potentially one day if my kids want to pursue the same path as I do, they would have a better situation to be in. I’m just very excited to get this going.”

Although Newton has not been named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, he was in attendance, lending his support and opinions on the matter.

“I just want everyone to know that the sport of mixed martial arts is the most restrained sport in the world.   It’s restrained by the UFC,” he said. “The UFC is the fastest growing monopoly in the world, and I’m here to fix that, address that. I’m here to stand in with my fellow fighters.

“We’re here to remove the anti-competitive restraints, address the anti-trust violations, gain compensation for our sweat, blood, our years of dedication and hard work. And I’m here for my future generation of fighters, which includes my own children. For me, I want to be able to fight for what I’m worth and not have to rely on someone else’s generosity.   I want to live in a democracy. I want to fight in a democracy, not under a dictatorship.”

Tuesday was just the first official step in a lengthy process that will play out in the legal system, but it is a step that has the potential to change the mixed martial arts playing field forever.

Though there weren’t as many fighters named as the speculation indicated, that could change as the case progresses through the system.

UFC officials did not address the specifics of the lawsuit on Tuesday, other than to say, “The UFC is aware of the action filed (on Tuesday) 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.”

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  • Piotr

    Oh, Dana and friends aren’t going to like this at all.

  • TheCerealKiller

    I would offer anyone that wants to be cut, can be. Good luck finding better pay. Bellator can’t afford to pay everyone 300k, like Tito. Do they want it to turn into boxing? 500 meaningless belts and 200 weight classes. Don King. Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley. The fan would lose the most.

    • MMA

      Hey ugly! we all know you get paid for your pro UFC propaganda. Soooo boring!

      • shakejunt

        you really think someone gets paid to be a shill on a message board with like 30 comments? sign me up.

        • Ms. Goooo

          The Troll lives to share UFC propaganda. Why would anyone do that unless they get paid?

          • shakejunt

            so anyone that disagrees with you is a shill? got it. i need to get on that payroll.

    • Mike Pardue

      That’s exactly right. The UFC should let these guys test the market. Maybe the fighters can bankrupt the competition like they have in the past and they will realize that a stable organization that pays you on the regular is better than one that goes out of business before your check clears.

      And yeah, it would be totally screwed up if MMA became like boxing. That’s why the UFC doesn’t do the whole “promoters” thing with these fighters. Boxing was ruined by promoters demands and by picking and choosing the fighters fights. AT least in the UFC the best guys actually fight one another.

    • blob

      You should really get a life dude…

      • TheCerealKiller

        It’s overrated, like both Diaz.

        • yourdad

          I know your life is, that’s why you should try and make something about it.
          Who knows, maybe one day you’ll make it all the way up to flipping burgers at Burger King?

  • jesoos

    Where’s Couture, Silva and Rampage..?

    • Lawdog1521

      They still give a **** about their careers.

      • yourdad

        Mmm, no, they all left the UFC.

        • Lawdog1521

          Yeah, but except for Randy, they still fight. When this lawsuit is lost, which it will be, where will Fitch, Quarry, and Le’s options be? The UFC is essentially the NFL at this point, good or bad. And they’ll eventually absorb Bellator and any other major competition.

          So, in five years those guys will be completely black balled from the sport, wait and see.

    • yourdad

      What about GSP? He also claims the UFC treated fighters like crap.

  • Darin

    Le? I’m a little surprised by that one, never heard him complain. Fitch? No shock there. Quarry? Who is he? Seriously, I like Nate, but I figured he’d moved on with his life since I haven’t seen him fight in forever.

  • Mike Pardue

    That’s why the UFC has survived where so many other organizations have failed. The UFC doesn’t overpay it’s fighters. Other orgs went out of business by spending too much on talent and on their events and they all tanked or were broke and sold out the fighters contracts to the UFC. The fighters have the potential to ruin their own sport if they demand too much too soon. MMA is still a growing sport. These guys want NFL money but but the UFC hasn’t been around as long as the NFL. I hope they find some middle ground where everyone can still participate in and enjoy the UFC.

    • TheCerealKiller

      It says the UFC is worth 2.1 billion dollars… the Bills are worth that alone. Take the minimum wage of the NFL($405,000) and divide it by 23.5(how many time more the NFL is worth) and you get $17,234. Considering they are paying absolute nobodies $8000, they’re not far off.

      • Mike Pardue

        And considering the UFC fighters don’t go at it 16 plus times a year like the NFL guys do, or 82 times like the NBA or 162 times like MLB that probably is right.

        I just don’t want to see MMA get screwed up like boxing has. Promoters have ruined that sport. Top guys fight once or maybe twice a year and pick and choose their opponents. That sucks. I used to watch boxing back in the 80’s and it was awesome. Lot’s of talent and lot’s of fights. That’s what the UFC has right now. Hopefully it will stay that way.

        • Lawdog1521

          “Top guys fight once or maybe twice a year and pick and choose their opponents.”

          Unfortunately the UFC is pretty much already there.

        • TheCerealKiller

          So a UFC fighter could fight up to 4 times a year, earning $32,000. Multiply that by the 23.5 times more the NFL is worth is $752,000. So proportionally speaking, the UFC is paying better than the NFL.

          • Mike Pardue

            And that’s just an average fighter getting a $16,000/$16,000 contract.

            If the fighters don’t like the pay, they shouldn’t sign the contract.

          • yourdad

            you missed the point ugly; being: “Monopoly”.

          • Mike Pardue

            Ever heard of Bellator? One FC? World Series of Fighting? Invicta?

            The UFC does not have a monopoly on the sport.

          • yourdad

            Go back to Elementary school and take math classes, little boy.
            Proportionally speaking: This farmer in Guatemala makes 100 dollars a year, he has 10 employees, he pays them 5 dollars a year; Thus, he pays better then the UFC!!! Amazing!!! All UFC and NFL athletes should quit their jobs to work there!!!
            You are one of the dumbest people I have ever heard of.

          • TheCerealKiller

            So you’ve heard of me! That’s cool.

            You obviously don’t understand economics. If you spend between 15 and 30 percent of your gross revenue on payroll, your business is likely in solid standing. The NFL’s 15-30% is a lot bigger than the UFC’s. The bigger they get, the more they can pay. And you think I’m one of the dumb ones. ┌∩┐(◕_◕)

      • Lawdog1521

        Which is exactly why despite the hype of this, they won’t win. The NFL already fought this exact same argument years ago in court and won.

      • shakejunt

        i’m gonna assume your numbers are correct. i like how you’re looking at this.

        • yourdad

          That’s because he’s your boyfriend, silly!

          • shakejunt

            dad, stop embarrassing me in front of my friends.

      • r

        Tw0 wrongs don’t make a right…

        • TheCerealKiller

          What the hell does that mean?

  • Lawdog1521

    Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and Nate Quarry. So who are these “elite” fighters mentioned?

    • blob

      What di you say ? Sorry I can’t hear you. maybe put Dana’s weener out of your mouth first.

      • shakejunt

        answer the question.

        • Piotr

          They fought in the UFC. That makes them elite fighters.

          • shakejunt

            does it though? it certainly makes them somewhat relevant and perhaps even “good,” but “elite” is reserved for the ranked guys i believe.

            if you were being sarcastic, sorry i couldn’t tell ha.

          • yourdad

            Fitch was 14-3-1 in the UFC when he was cut. With his only losses to GSP, Hendricks and Maia. He was one of the best in his division = elite, when he was cut.

          • shakejunt

            dad, this has nothing to do with him being cut. he’s trying to sue them on the basis that he can’t make a decent living with their current business model. when he was cut is irrelevant because they can cut him at any time and he went on to lose in wsof. the way you make money in this business is by winning fights and being entertaining while doing so.

          • Piotr

            No, now you’re changing the subject. You said they weren’t elite fighters which is ridiculous since both Fitch and Quarry were both #1 contenders and fought for UFC titles.

          • TheCerealKiller

            I’ll agree with Fitch, but Quarry never beat a single ranked fighter. He got a title shot because of his popularity on the show and lack of an opponent for Rich at the time.

          • shakejunt

            i mean, you’re right to an extent because fitch was, but the context of the situation is in the present. i’m not really sure where you’re going with this.

  • googoogahgah

    This IS American capitalism at its finest, monopolize every industry possible. And what do you think all of the monopolizers say when people like this come crying? “Tough luck kids, its a dog eat dog world, you don’t like it? Don’t like our rules, our organization? Then don’t fight here, take a hike”. Sure they won’t get good money fighting at local the Joe Blow Fighting Championship…but it’s an option nevertheless.

  • DamianCross

    So nobody probably wants to hear this, but there’s a good case here. The WEC, Strikeforce, and PRIDE buyouts aren’t gonna look good in that courtroom. A former UFC employee now heads their main competition. The largest women’s org in the world is only viewable on a UFC channel. Zuffa benefits from their fighters as independent contractors, but they also prohibit them from earning a living through sponsors (first limiting their mention, now banning them off clothing, flags, charging fees etc). This is gonna be long, bloody battle.

  • Guest

    The UFC built MMA into a professional production, based on modern economic values, and you expect them to not adsorb as much profit as possible. Next your going to be complaining that a ten cent cancer drug pill should not be sold for $150 bucks! America was built on a 20 million native genocide with just as many African slaves. Im sure the result was going to be a free world of universal health care and affordable housing. Monsters rule this company, they use humans as a resource and we love to watch.

  • Jorge

    So fighters like Jon Jones, Rowsy and Cain Velasquez can figure out how to brand themselves into millionaires and these washed up fighters who couldn’t figure it out are now looking to capitalize on the UFC’s business success? Gimme a break! There was never a problem when they were signing the CONTRACTS to fight for the agreed upon amount. Why would anyone ever pay to watch Cung Le, Jon Fitch or Nate Quarry fight, besides watching them get beat by a real champion?

    • Seth

      While I agree with you…I was pumped for Fitch/Maia fight. Same as Fitch/Silva 😡 Im just fan of Fitch, so Im a little bit biased when it comes to Fitch xD

  • taylor2008

    Only ones that will make out here are the attorneys. I do however see what they mean. Look how UFC bought out Strike force, WEC and Pride. They dissolved them all and took the top fighters. The rest they tossed out. Then do you notice how UFC will try to have a fight the same nights as Bellator? They used to do that constantly with Strike Force. I think thats very unfair. They are trying to eliminate the competition so they are the only ones that put on big shows.
    But on the other hand if you want to get paid like the top fighters you have to fight like a champion fighter. Look at the last interview with Nate Diaz after his loss. What I could understand of his doped up brain….he said he was “out of shape” and needed to fight to get paid. People like him need to be kicked out. He was just fighting for a check. Not to fighting towards a belt.

    • shakejunt

      ufc started booking same dates as bellator after their split with spike. spike started trying to counter program them by showing unleashed and such featuring fighters that were fighting for the ufc that night.

  • Seth

    On one side…its silly. I mean, they want to sue UFC because they couldn’t fight in certain promotions for certain period of time after getting fired? Duuuuh…you signed that clause yourself, so you were cool with it. And if you weren’t – why the f did you sign it? At the time when Fitch was signing his lastest deal with UFC he was around Hendricks fight – so he had at best 2 losses in 16 (!!) fights with the UFC. He was one of the top WW on the planet at that time, also coming of amazing fight with BJ. He was in the position to negotiate back then. But I doubt UFC would let anyone take that clause of their contract – its normal business decision. Maybe not in the best interest of fighters, I agree with that – but UFC has to look after its own business first.

    Fighters being underpaid – we already talked about it a lot and I don’t see anything new in that discussion. Just create fighters union and stand up for all (or at least majority) of MMA fighters. That would be the best move, instead of throwing this lawsuit which will get you nothing and only waste your own time and resources.

    UFC did take over the sport. But look how much work, money and time they put into it. They sit on top because they are the best. If Bellator, WSOF or anyone else would be that good – they would compete with UFC. And Bellator can, they have the money to do so – but they don’t even try.

    Im looking forward to see how this lawsuit turns out, I don’t expect UFC to lose this one and I still say that instead of that, fighters union should be made.

    • shakejunt

      problem is the fertitas own casinos and are known for being anti-union. similar reasoning as to why mma still isn’t legal in ny.

      ufc is just gonna pull up bellator’s salaries and show the court how much someone like tito or rampage is getting paid over there.

      • Seth

        So what? If 50% (or more, which I think would be likely to happen) of UFC fighters would join, there is NOTHING UFC can do to them. What would they do? Fire or suspend half of their roster? Guess who will be hurt more by that move. Would they lower their salaries even more? Then they can say “Ok, then we won’t accept any fight unless you pay us more”. Again, who can wait here longer? Fighters still can make money as personal trainers/coaches, working in their gyms etc and UFC without half of their roster would be a mess. UFC would have to start taking care of them. Look at NBA or NFL – how much union F***s the leagues? League can do much without their approval and they have to worry about players union whenever they want to do something ajor that affects players.

        That’s why Fighters Union is absolute WORST thing can happen to UFC or any other MMA promotion.

        • shakejunt

          it’s a delicate balance for sure and idk what the proper solution is. let’s just hope it all works out and i still get my fight fix.

          • Seth

            I do hope the outcome of this lawsuit will push this case towards fighters and make their lives better. At the end, they are the ones that entertain us and they are showcasing their skills and talents, risking their health in the process 🙂

          • r

            You are very short sighted if you care about your “fight fix” that much. If the UFC loses its monopoly status, it will be better for everyone.

            Microsoft lost antitrust suits in the 90’s, now we have Google, and smart devices. Microsoft would have sold us windows 98 over and over again on the same laptop/desktop set ups that we always had if they had not been challenged by startup companies. Using monopolistic practices, mainly horizontal and vertical integration, Microsoft had been actively undercutting at a loss, or outright purchasing any start ups companies they saw as potential competition. The company would then be folded into Microsoft and any disruptions of the status quo were prevented. The UFC has done the same thing with Strikeforce, WEC, and Pride.

            Reshuffling the deck can spark all kinds of innovation. It has been demonstrated time and time again throughout human history.

          • shakejunt

            i see your point even though the “human history” part is pretty hyperbolic. i’m just not interested in a boxing-esque landscape where there are a hundred belts and the top guys don’t fight anyone relevant.

    • Chris Morgan

      A fighters union is one of those that looks good on paper, but might not be AS good in reality (IMO). How would a union go about enforcing fighters’ rights? The amount of local shows alone would make it difficult to ensure that a fighter’s rights are not being violated. If the union is promotion based, how do you account for the turnover rate? What’s stops the UFC from bringing in “scabs?”

      One of the main reasons a players union works for the U.S. major leagues is because of the very nature of the sport. In the major U.S. leagues players are on teams and are in close proximity to one another for the duration of a given season. That gives them an opportunity to discuss union-related issues, strategy, etc. With MMA, fighters are scattered all over the globe. Plus, there’s the issue of not enough fighters being in a single location very often (if ever). All of this is a moot point as long as fighters are labeled as independent contractors. That alone prevents fighters from forming a union.

      There’s actually an article that addresses the issue of unions in MMA in great detail (on the off chance you haven’t read it).

      • Seth

        I will go and look it up, thanks for heads up about it 🙂

        As far as union’s details…well, I would start with union’s based on countries (Like US Union, Brazil Union, UK Union etc) or have one big global “Union of unions” – I mean, one global union to serve how it should be for fighters, their rights etc – then go to “regional” unions and leave it up to them to control that fighters are treated fairly. UFC goes to brazil? So Brazil’s part of fighters union will take care of fighters on those cards. I understand it may be tough to execute…but if we leave it as it is, UFC will only dicatet more and more “standards” to make fighter’s situation even worse… :/

  • shakejunt

    wait… what elite fighters are they talking about? all i see here are sore losers.

  • shakejunt

    yep, keep commenting on articles about them though. that’ll show em.

    • r

      There is nothing wrong with awareness, and this is an appropriate forum to discuss these issues. Rob isn’t trying to end the UFC himself, he needs your help. It seems to me that Rob is not as brainwashed as many other ‘Muricans.
      Ipsa scientia protestas est… Knowledge itself is power.

      • shakejunt

        it’s like conor mcgregor. the more you say his name, the more attention he gets. if you want something to go away, don’t acknowledge it.

  • Shartnado2, the Sloppy One

    Dana wants to bully the fighters around by being the only option and saying take it or leave it. I hope he loses this suit

    • Seth

      Well…UFC worked like 20years to earn that position. I say, it’s fair for them to use it. It’s not fair to leave fighters without a choice or voice though. Once again, fighters need to form union.

      • r

        The UFC is doing everything they can to prevent a fighters’ union. That would be worse for them than this lawsuit.

        • Seth

          Yup, totally agree. Not only for them – for Bellator, for WSOF…basically for every MMA promotion. But, that would be best for fighters. They have to do that, or situation will not improve for them :/

  • Michael Whenham

    I see a union in the future of pro MMA.

  • jay

    Lol, I don’t care what anyone is saying dana and them are living like king while all these fighters are getting choke change. I bet mayweather is making more in one single fight then all ufc fighters combine annually and mayweather be fighting weak ass guys!

  • mmalive

    Great to see fighters stand up. Not be SISSIES with tails between their legs.

    UFC and rest of crew are in the spot light for negative reasons.

    PPV are going down and will continue to do so. Fans tune in to catch and pay for fights.

    UFC is WELL KNOWN for treating fighters like DIRTY SCUM.

    Uncle Dana/Fertitas Brothers line their pockets with FULL HARD CASH.

    The UFC made millions of not billions off fighters blood, sweat, and tears.

    Paying fighters PEANUTS.

    More fighters will join in in this lawsuit. Bet on it.

    The Diaz brothers, plus many more.

    If fighters do not get on their knees and be Dana’s puppet then your CUT.

    Hopefully the lawsuit EXPOSES the REAL TRUTH about UFC.

    Not some fantasy. Time will tell.