For years, UFC President Dana White has sat atop the world of Mixed Martial Arts, along with his partners at ZUFFA.
They have reportedly taken the promotion from a $2 million fight promotion, to a worldwide $3.5 billion business.
But, they’ve got a new fight on their hands — with a group of fighters, including Jon Fitch (pictured above) announcing the filing of an antitrust lawsuit yesterday, along with the help of five law firms.
Yesterday, the legal analyst for Sports Illustrated described the lawsuit against ZUFFA, which was reported here at Caged Insider, as having the ability to “unravel the UFC.”
Michael McCann, who is a legal analyst and writer for SI (as well as a professor of law at the University of New Hampshire) offered a summary of the case for the publication yesterday.
He compared the claims that UFC is an illegal monopoly to those of Curtis Flood, whose suit against Major League Baseball led to the current system of free agency.
“As the fighters see it, they’ve been unlawfully denied free agency and name, image and likeness rights,” McCann writes. “This denial has led to seemingly low salaries compared to massive UFC revenues.”
“The UFC, in their view, unlawfully stifles competition from other MMA leagues,” McCann notes. “By denying UFC fighters opportunities to bargain with rival MMA leagues, the UFC can pay its fighters low wages and impose strict employment restrictions. According to this theory, the UFC leaves its fighters with no bargaining leverage and then takes full and brutal advantage of this absence of competition.”
McCann noted that this type of legal battle often goes on for years. But even if the fighters do not win their trial, they could drastically change the MMA landscape.
Simply getting past ZUFFA’s motion to desist could excite change, the attorney notes.
“A judge would likely order pretrial discovery,” McCann writes. “This could force Zuffa to reveal sensitive information about fighters’ salaries and UFC contracts and potentially help fighters negotiate better pay.”
The UFC responded briefly at their official website:
“The UFC is aware of the action filed today but has not been served, nor has it had the opportunity to review the document. The UFC will vigorously defend itself and its business practices.”