Ultimate Fighting Championship Faces a Class Action Lawsuit Over Alleged MMA Monopoly
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
In a series of big-name antitrust lawsuits that have taken the stage recently, an antitrust lawsuit filed against the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) all the way back in 2014 has finally received class action status.
UFC is facing allegations of anticompetitive behaviour resulting in a monopoly of the Mixed Martial Art (MMA) market, especially in regard to fighter compensation.
Middleweight Cung Le Jon Fitch and one-time middleweight title challenger Nate Quarry came together to file the initial complaint against UFC’s parent company over an alleged abuse of power leading to an unjust monopoly of the MMA labor market. While some smaller competitors remain, those of comparable significance have all been absorbed by the UFC. The trouble with monopolies is that when one company has all the people—or in this case, fighters—they have the power to make up their own rules regarding how they should be compensated.
According to the New York Times, UFC fighters have typically received less than 20% of their total revenue, whereas athletes in the NFL, NBA, and NHL typically receive 50%.
This disparity in pay between professional athletes is just one of the reasons that Cung Le and Nate Quarry have been seeking class action status for this lawsuit since 2014. Not only does this pay gap mean that professional MMA fighters may have been missing out on millions of dollars in wages each year, but federal trade laws prohibit a company from engaging in anticompetitive behaviors such as buying out all the competition to create one big monopoly. If these allegations are true, it’s possible that the UFC will be asked to divest some of their assets to break up their MMA empire.
The fighters in this lawsuit are also seeking an end to the long-term contracts which have been the norm between fighters and the UFC.
Long-term contracts are a common topic of debate in professional sports. While theoretically these contracts should serve to provide stability and clarity to athletes under contract, in cases like that of the UFC fighters, long-term contracts can allegedly do more harm than good. While a fighter may go up significantly in their worth as their career progresses, that value will not be represented in their earnings until the old contract runs out and a new one can be struck. This has led many fighters to feel trapped into long-term contracts that have far from their best interest at heart. Additionally, with no fighters union to advocate for them unlike many other sports, fighters are having to largely advocate for themselves, just as the fighters in this lawsuit have done.
The class includes more than 1,200 fighters.
According to the complaint, anyone who fought for the UFC from 2010 to 2017 is included in the class for this complaint; if successful, any class member who does not opt out will receive some portion of the verdict or settlement. It should be noted that a successful verdict could result in up to $5 billion of damages the UFC will be required to pay; however, if the company decides to settle, the number could be significantly less, more in the range of $300 million.
The UFC reportedly plans to appeal the granting of class action status to this lawsuit. If successful, the UFC fighters will likely have a long road back to class action approval. However, if the appeal is dismissed, litigation for this lawsuit will be allowed to continue and the real fight will finally be underway.