UFC Antitrust Lawsuit Characterizes All Other MMA Promotions as ‘Minor League’

December 17, 2014
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Former UFC fighters Jon Fitch, Cung Le and Nate Quarry filed an antitrust lawsuit against their former employer on Tuesday in California alleging that the Las Vegas-based fight promotion has become a mixed martial arts monopoly, and has used its power to restrict options within the industry for fighters.

Part of the 58-page legal filing classified all other MMA promotions as “minor league.” Within the section dedicated to demonstrating that the UFC allegedly schemed to, “Aquire, maintain and enhance monopoly and monopoly power,” several fight promotions were mentioned as examples.

The controlling entities of the UFC have purchased several competing fight promotions and folded them and their fighters over to the UFC brand. The filing categorizes those actions as an “anticompetitive campaign.”

ALSO SEE: PDF of the Full Filing of the Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and Nate Quarry UFC Lawsuit

On Dec. 11, 2006, Zuffa, the parent company the UFC, announced it had acquired select assets of World Fighting Alliance (WFA), including the contracts of WFA fighters. The WFA afterward ceased operations per the sale agreement.

In December 2006, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) was purchased by Zuffa LLC. It was originally run as a separate promotion primarily featuring the lighter weight divisions, but was merged into the UFC in 2010.

LFertittaDWhiteUFC100_4618-750In March 2007, Station Casinos Inc., controlled by UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, purchased the UFC’s biggest international competition, Pride Fighting Championships. Originally, the plan was to run the Japanese promotion as a separate entity, but Pride FC was instead dissolved into the UFC. The reportedly $70-million deal included the video library and the contracts of the fighters on the Pride roster.

In March 2011, Zuffa LLC purchased Strikeforce. That transaction, according to the lawsuit, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“As a result of the UFC’s acquisition of Strikeforce, the UFC controlled virtually all elite professional MMA fighters in every weight class. The Strikeforce acquisition was part of a series of UFC acquisitions of actual or potential rival promotions that, together, enabled the UFC to consolidate and maintain its control over the revenue generating core of the MMA industry,” was stated within the legal filing.

LISTEN TO: Full Audio of the News Conference Announcing the UFC Lawsuit

“While they proclaimed to promote the best in every weight class prior to the Strikeforce acquisition, following the Strikeforce purchase, the UFC could accurately state that it now controlled virtually all elite professional MMA fighters in every weight class. Going forward, this insured that, to obtain media acclaim as ‘elite’ and corresponding public notoriety, an elite professional MMA fighter must sign with and compete against UFC fighters.”

“After Impairing Actual or Potential Rivas and Acquiring Virtually Every Would-Be Rival Promoter That it Did Not Put Out of Business, the UFC Relegated all Remaining MMA Promoters as ‘Minor League’ Status,” headlined a particular section of the lawsuit.

“Beginning no later than March 2011, the few fringe MMA promoters that the UFC had not yet acquired or put out of business, such as Bellator MMA, effectively functioned and continue to function as ‘minor Leagues’ for the UFC. These MMA promotion outfits provide no real access to top media rankings, public notoriety, lucrative bout purses, endorsements, or sponsorships. Thus, through its anticompetitive scheme, the UFC has come to dominate the relevant input and outlet markets,” read the complaint.

The suit characterized every other MMA promotion as, “a minor league training ground for the UFC.”

Fight promotions such as Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA), Titan Fighting Championship, Legacy Fighting Championship, Invicta Fighting Championships and Bellator MMA were all categorized as ‘minor league’ organizations. There was no mention of ONE FC or World Series of Fighting (WSOF) in the legal documents.

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  • shakejunt

    well, they are, but i doubt they view themselves that way. tito gets paid 300k in the minor leagues.

    • cheflacsto

      Yeah 300,000 in the minors, pretty damn good. T

  • Seth

    Ok…so basically they described how UFC legally became bigger? How’s that a bad thing in terms of law? Some people may view it as bad in moral terms – with UFC “eating” all competition and getting monopol on mainstream MMA…but at which point they broke a law? .-. For now it looks like Fitch, Lee and Quary are just burned that some people can actually make it in the UFC and make a big money meanwhile…

    • DamianCross

      Getting the monopoly is breaking the law. They’re going to argue that buying strikeforce violated the sherman and clayton anti-trust acts.

      • Seth

        Seriously? I still feel that monopoly in MMA is based on where you seat and where you look at it from. You have other MMA shows that are on TV/PPV so it’s not like UFC is the only MMA promotion existing or putting events on TV/PPV. From fighters stand point – well, no one will pay you like UFC (unless you have name value like Tito Ortiz, which is basically a few fighters today). I call it monopol, also majority of fans call it that way – but that’s only based on how it feels. But you can’t deny that there are other fight promotions, so its not like UFC has a REAL monopol on MMA… .-.

        • DamianCross

          You can argue that used illegal tactics to maintain their hold on the top. History shows that anytime a smaller org got remotely close to where the UFC is, they bought and closed it, preventing the free market from taking its course. I’m not saying its a slam dunk win for the Quarry/Fitch/Le team, but I do think they have a case.

          • Seth

            If those deals that UFC made with owners are legal…then why it was illegal? I mean, I understand your point – but in order to make your theory work you would have to prove that their intention were clearly to maintain their status. While they can say they did it as normal business move – they had to grow and that was part of it. Unless those deals were illegal, I can’t really think of a way to prove that what they did was illegal…how you possibly can prove their intentions were bad? :/ It sounds impossible to me…

          • Chris Morgan

            You can also argue that the UFC’s purchase of those organizations is a moot point. Many of them were looking to get out of MMA by the time they were purchased.In the case of Strikeforce, the UFC was the only company that made a serious offer after Strikeforce’s primary investor pulled out (correct me if I’m wrong). No one said that Affliction had to offer high purses. Can the UFC be blamed for Pride’s yakuza ties (real or perceived) leading to their downfall?

            Since there are just as many parallels between MMA and pro wrestling as there are between MMA and boxing, why hasn’t the WWE been sued? The UFC and WWE are in identical situations (WWE arguably having more power) and it’s been almost 14 years since WWE’s primary competitors went out of business. Yet, no “disgruntled ex-employees” or other entities have sued WWE for antitrust violations.

  • DamianCross

    “Beginning no later than March 2011, the few fringe MMA promoters that the UFC had not yet acquired or put out of business, such as Bellator MMA”. They’re targeting the UFC between the years of 2006 and 2011, before Viacom showed up. Very smart.

    • Seth

      They have to play cards they were dealt, so there will be at least a few places where they arguing is shaking. In some more, in some less – but they will try to make it look like they are right. Normal thing, right? You always twist the case in court to make it look like you have a point.

    • MikeMcK83

      They’re complaint also includes “anti competitive business practices.” That argument can be made whether there’s competition with deep pockets or not.
      For example you can conspire to commit murder without there actually being a murder.

  • insane187288

    So the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL ARE not monopolies either? You can go play for different teams and represent that team just as you can the camp you fight for. If one doesn’t want to fight in the ufc then go fight in the “Joe Shmo” show in whatever city. Can still fight professionally there. I could go on and on but the mma know it all’s will tear this up. Vote with your dollars not your words on here.

  • Ted

    If I remember right Strikeforce was about to go under and reached out to UFC to sell and save the fighters from being unemployed. Maybe I am remembering wrong so correct me if I am.

    • deon vu

      they weren’t under..investors wanted to pull out..from what coker said, they were profit made but weren’t to what the investors liking

      • TheCerealKiller

        Which means they were about to go under. If the investors are pulling out, it means the return is not worth their investment.

  • ac

    The only ones getting rich from this will be the lawyers.

  • Joseph

    This is a joke if it was not for the UFC MMA would not be where it is today

    • deon vu

      you are so wrong..

      • TheCerealKiller

        Because the roid ridden PRIDE was doing so well, they almost went bankrupt.

      • Joseph

        No I’m not. The ultimate fighter final with Forrest Griffin started it all.

      • Scooby

        Has it been up to Elite XC, Strikeforce or any other, MMA would still be the unpopular freak-show the UFC was in the 90’s, you ignorant douche.

    • MikeMcK83

      What does that have to do with the law suit? Just because you grow an industry doesn’t make you immune from law.

  • cheflacsto

    I am confused, is there more than one NFL, MLB, NHL, or NBA. There is however a Bellator, or a WSOF that these guys can sign with. Is Jon Fitch not making enough money with his new promotion, because he can’t draw flies? If the UFC is paying a minimum why do guys sign with them.? Bellator and Viacom are a larger company and can pay more? It just doesn’t seem to make any sense. Guys sign a contract and then complain about it. Don’t sign the contract and hold out for more money, or put the 3 companies up against each other for your services and then take the best deal, or find a more lucrative career. It seems only mediocre fighter are complaining here, would it be ironic if they win and put the company out of business and they are all working for peanuts in small, local promotions.

    • HomeAttendant


  • Rence

    I’m mostly just disappointed to see Cung as part of this joke. Yes, the UFC is the big dog in town for the MMA market. But, why should they be punished for doing what others have tried to do and failed? They arent stopping any one of us from winning the lottery and starting our own promotion. Is it their fault no one else can keep up with them? Of the promotions they bought and absorbed, which of them didnt have a fair chance to succeed? Id be nearly anything that had the UFC not bought them, they’d have folded anyway. Everyone bitches the UFC doesnt pay enough, but then why is it where every MMA fighter wants to fight?

    Sour grapes i’d say

    • HomeAttendant

      I’m not saying this to be condescending but you don’t seem to be very educated since you underappreciate the power of monopolies. You should read up on it. It’s the single biggest money maker factor in history. It will unfairly choke out competition and stifle innovation as it gives the business enormous power against competitors, consumers and other stakeholders. Unfortunately, the Dept of Justice that oversees antitrust issues is kinda’ lax and lets many monopolies slide. As a result, prices do not just double but may frequently increase literally 20 times. UFC did not purchase Pride and Strikeforce due to any synergies but intentionally to squash competition (as you can see that all of these organizations were disbanded a few years later after purchase). It’s a common business technique – for example, Amazon does this today to ensure no one can grow big enough to challenge it as it slowly increases prices.

  • HomeAttendant

    I’m sorry if I sound pretentious. I didn’t intend to be but I needed to point out how vastly unknowledgeable you are of with respect to this topic. It’s that egregious. What you are arguing against right now is taught in the first week of Economics 101. Do yourself a favor and read the wiki on monopolies so you understand the awesome power of them. They are the single most powerful leverage that a business has over its consumers. The richest men in history intentionally strived to become monopolies and this is what specifically made them rich. The UFC is doing the same thing.

    Just to let you know everytime that a merger happens, prices go up…not just double but 10 or 20 times. For example, our company uses a national listing service called costar. They bought out loopnet, promising the dept of justice that they wouldn’t raise prices. Our monthly rates went from $25 to $500 in a matter of a year or two. They justified it by stating that they are offering more services. The additional services are junk.

    Of course, monopolies are good in certain cases like you mentioned. One software operating system so that everything is compatible is great. Electricity in our houses are monopolies because more houses you supply, the cost goes down dramatically. But, please don’t believe that the company wouldn’t charge more rather than less if they had the chance. This is why utilities are regulated by law – they would lower prices to bankrupt competitors and then later raise their prices by giving crappy service. That’s why Verizon with their monopoly on towers are so expensive and give crappy service. This is why the electrical utility offers such crappy service. The list goes on and on.

    UFC very likely bought those dying business in order to dissolve them. It’s a COMMON busines tactic that is done over and over again. Amazon does this. If the UFC didn’t do this, a hedge fund could come along, pump money into them, and prvent UFC from charging higher prices.

    And, without competition, monopolies ALWAYS perform worse. This is not to say that they are bad. Of course, not. They won all the consumers because they were the best. But, after the monopoly is achieved, they will raise prices and give crappy service. It’s just what happens.

    The UFC isn’t an absolute monopoly because it still has to compete against other sporst like boxing, NFL, etc. But don’t be deluded to think that they wouldn’t raise prices due to their monopoly. They can and they did. Look how fighters can not negotiate their contracts anymore. There is nowhere else to go.