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.
The 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.
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.
“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.”