HDNet Fights Has Contract with Couture; Question is When It Begins
Last week Mark Cuban's HDNet Fights made headlines when it sued
Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, in district court in Dallas. As
first reported by Sherdog.com, the suit seeks declaratory relief
concerning Randy Couture
(Pictures)'s contractual status under
a promotional contract with Zuffa.
New details of the action have been revealed in the complaint
obtained by Sherdog.com. According to the filing, HDNet Fights has
entered into a contract with Couture that is scheduled to commence
upon the expiration of his Zuffa promotional agreement. At that
time, the company plans to promote a fight between Couture and
(Pictures) in Dallas, assuming terms
can be reached with the highly regarded Russian heavyweight.
The existence of an actual contract between HDNet Fights and
Couture is believed to be key to the company's action in Texas.
Without it, it is unlikely that the court would find an actual
controversy ripe for adjudication.
According to the filing, Couture has stated that he believes his
Zuffa promotional contract expires with the stated term of the
agreement in July, while Zuffa maintains that the contract remains
valid indefinitely under the infamous "retirement clause." In the
complaint, HDNet Fights characterized Zuffa's contention as
"Zuffa's position regarding Couture is both illegal and involves
critical timing," the filing states. "First, like all fighters,
Couture's ability to fight at a championship level will diminish as
he ages. Through their actions, Zuffa seeks to ensure that Couture
is prevented from gainful employment and practicing his craft until
he cannot be an elite fighter. Importantly, the law in Texas is
clear that indefinite employment restrictions such as Zuffa claims
to be enforcing are per se illegal and against public policy."
Both sides agree that the one-year non-compete provision contained
in Couture's employment contract with the UFC expires on Oct. 12,
meaning that even with a favorable outcome concerning the term of
Couture's promotional contract, the earliest Couture-Fedor could
take place would be in the fall.
The complaint also recognizes Zuffa as the undisputed market leader
in the MMA industry.
"A key technique utilized by Zuffa to maintain their iron grip on
the MMA industry is litigation and intimidation," the complaint
reads. "Just a cursory review of court dockets in Nevada
demonstrate the remarkably litigious nature of Zuffa and their
willingness to tie their opponents down with expensive and lengthy
court battles regardless of merits."
In a nod to pending litigation in Nevada, where Zuffa has sued
Couture and as yet unnamed defendants for, among other things,
conspiracy to commit tortous acts, the complaint notes that "HDNet
did not want or intend in any way for such an agreement to induce
or cause Couture to breach his UFC Fight Contract or any other
agreement(s) he might have with Zuffa and/or UFC or to interfere
with any valid contract that Couture might have."
Accordingly, HDNet Fights' contract with Couture will only become
effective upon a declaration by the court that Zuffa's promotional
agreement is void, invalid or unenforceable in whole or in part, or
upon a declaration of the effective date on which Couture's
contract with HDNet Fights may begin without violating any
provisions of his contract with Zuffa.
Adam Swift is the Editor of MMAPayout.com and a regular contributor to
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