Judge Certifies Class for UFC Class-Action Lawsuit, Including Fighters From 2010-2017

By: Josh Gross
Dec 11, 2020

A federal antitrust lawsuit filed in 2014 by former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters cleared a make-or-break hurdle on Thursday.

Judge Richard J. Boulware, a U.S. District Court Judge in Nevada, confirmed what he teased in September by granting class certification in Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa LLC.

The lawsuit alleges that UFC violated antitrust laws by monopolizing the MMA industry using anticompetitive practices in the form of long-term, exclusive contracts that prevented fighters from negotiating deals on the open market, and further controlling the MMA industry by acquiring and then shutting down other promotions. This lack of competition, the fighters argue, resulted in fighters being paid far less than what they could have earned in a competitive market.

“This is an enormous win for all UFC fighters, past, present and future,” Cung Le said in a statement issued by the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association. “For too long, the UFC has taken advantage of fighters by monopolizing the industry, and cheated fighters out of millions of dollars each year. Today’s decision by Judge Boulware means our case can proceed for all UFC fighters that are part of the class.”

The official order confirming that the "bout" class will move forward is expected no later than Monday. The class includes any person who competed in one or more live professional UFC promoted MMA bouts taking place or broadcast in the United States from Dec. 16, 2010 to June 30, 2017. The plaintiffs estimate that this includes roughly 1,200 fighters.

Boulware, however, declined to certify to the "identity" class, which would have made any fighter whose likeness was used by the UFC over the same period party to the litigation.

“Today’s decision brings us one step closer to enjoying a competitive market which will allow fighters to be paid their true worth,” Nate Quarry, who sought to be included in the "identity" class, said in the MMAFA statement. “By bringing this lawsuit and standing up to the UFC, we’ve had more disclosure in the last few years regarding the unfair split of revenues and coercive negotiating tactics of the UFC than in the prior 25 years combined.”

Had Boulware chosen against granting class certification the case would have effectively ended, but not before a trove of information regarding the financial reality of UFC's business was brought to light. As revealing as the case has been thus far, the UFC now faces the prospect that this antitrust lawsuit could forever change the way it -- and the rest of the American MMA business -- conducts business.

In addition to significant monetary damages ranging from $800 million to $1.6 billion, the plaintiffs seek to correct the UFC's alleged anticompetitive practices. This could include altering how contracts are structured and instituting a ranking system across MMA that includes fighters regardless of promoter.
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