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.”
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.
In 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.
“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.