by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Zuffa, LLC – parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship – on Thursday scored its first legal victory against heavyweight champion Randy Couture.
Nevada District Court Judge Jennifer Togliatti granted a motion for a preliminary injunction preventing Couture “from engaging in any promotion or production of events or programming related to unarmed combat during the February 29, 2008 (International Fight League) event” in Las Vegas, according to the court’s minutes of the hearing. The finding also precludes the use of the “name ‘Randy Couture’ and likeness on the IFL website, print materials, banners, and like materials to promote” the event.
The Xtreme Couture designation as a camp on the IFL’s website had already been removed prior to the hearing, as noted in an affidavit received by the court.
Contacted by MMAWeekly, IFL representative Jerry Milani sent a statement via email stating, “Given the ongoing litigation between Xtreme Couture and the UFC, we were asked by Xtreme Couture Wednesday to not use the Xtreme Couture camp name in our event this Friday. Out of respect for Randy and his team in this difficult situation, the camp will take the name Team Tompkins… Shawn Tompkins is coaching this Friday as already announced… for this Friday’s event. The IFL is not in any way involved in this litigation, we are doing this out of professional courtesy for Randy and his group.”
When contacted on Thursday, representatives of Xtreme Couture declined to comment on the change from Xtreme Couture to Team Tompkins on the IFL website.
Court minutes also stated that in an affidavit filed with the court, Couture noted “that he has personally not participated in and has no intention of being in attendance at the IFL Event or providing any interviews or commentaries regarding this event.”
Although a positive turn for Zuffa, this was a “preliminary” injunction, so the court had to make a minimal, quick finding on Friday night’s IFL event. It is not a final ruling on Couture’s contract, but specifically addresses the IFL event.
If the case proceeds to trial, a detailed order should be entered regarding all the future matters raised in the pleadings and motion filed with the court.
If this initial ruling is any indication, however, it appears that Couture could be in an uphill legal battle in regards to the reported one-year non-compete clause in his Employment Agreement with Zuffa.
A date of March 6, 2008 was set for further proceedings and discovery prior to a trial or evidentiary hearing.
(Special thanks to attorney Leonard L. Campbell for his assistance in clarifying the legal proceedings involved in this case.)