Judge Rules Bellator Breach of Contract Claims Against Rampage ‘Likely to Succeed’

By Tristen Critchfield Apr 8, 2015
A New Jersey judge did not side with Quinton Jackson in his battle against Bellator. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Bellator MMA was granted a preliminary injunction to prevent Quinton Jackson from fighting at UFC 186 in the Burlington County Superior Court of New Jersey on Tuesday, and it appears the promotion has a strong argument in its case against the light heavyweight going forward.

Sherdog.com recently obtained a copy of Judge Karen Suter’s order, which states that the promotion “is reasonably likely to succeed on the merits of its breach of contract claim” against Jackson.

While a preliminary injunction prevents a party from proceeding with a course of action -- in this case Jackson competing for a rival MMA promotion on April 25 -- the final outcome of any legal case has yet to be rendered.

In seeking the injunction, Bellator had to demonstrate the following, according to the order:

“Reasonable probability of success on the merits; that a balancing of the equities and hardships favors injunctive relief; that the movant has no adequate remedy at law and that irreparable injury to be suffered in the absence of injunctive relief is substantial and imminent; and that the public interest will not be harmed.”

Bellator was able to provide a compelling argument along those lines to receive injunctive relief, particularly in regards to proving irreparable harm and probability of success.

The saga began to truly unfold when Jackson’s manager sent a termination notice to Bellator on Oct. 21, 2014 and began negotiations with the UFC. Bellator learned of the negotiations on Dec. 4, 2014 and notified the UFC that “Rampage” was still under contract, according to the order.

Judge Suter ultimately found that Jackson signing with the UFC would cause Bellator irreparable harm because of the following:

“Given the limited pool of successful and well-known MMA athletes, any fighter defects from one promoter to another not only deprives the former promoter of a benefit, but also boosts the latter promoter’s reputation in the process. Both parties agree that Defendant is a unique asset in MMA athletics, the loss of whom is significant. If Defendant is permitted to fight outside his contract, then harm will be done. This constitutes irreparable harm that cannot be rectified by monetary damages alone.”

Judge Suter also found that Bellator successfully demonstrated that Jackson would breach his contract by fighting Fabio Maldonado on April 25 while also noting that “the court is mindful that its role here is not to determine the underlying contract dispute. That issue is for another day, following discovery, if appropriate, and a hearing.”

“Although Defendant contends there are factual issues about Plaintiff’s compliance with the written contract,” Suter wrote, “the court finds that Plaintiff clearly and convincingly shown a reasonable probability of compliance with the contract’s material terms.”

While Jackson has claimed that Bellator failed to fulfill a number of the entertainment-based provisions in his contract, including a reality TV series and the development of a screenplay, Suter found that the promotion satisfied those stipulations while pointing out that there was never any guarantee regarding the success of such endeavors.

Jackson also claimed that his fights were not adequately promoted, including a 2014 pay-per-view contest against Muhammed Lawal. Additionally, Jackson said his contract was not honored because Bellator failed to place all of his bouts on a pay-per-view platform.

However, Judge Suter pointed to the portion of Jackson’s contract which stated that the “promoter may secure, promote, arrange, present , coordinate, create and produce bouts in any manner promoter chooses…and fighter shall not unreasonably refuse to participate in offered bouts” as evidence that Bellator is likely to succeed in its case in terms of venue selection and promotion.

Perhaps more importantly, Judge Suter found that the contract provided that “all bouts shall be on dates and at sites to be designated by promoter, in its sole and absolute discretion. Further, Defendant’s only ‘evidence’ as to Plaintiff’s alleged promotion is his own self-serving opinion. That is not an adequate basis.”

Another point of contention between Jackson and Bellator was that the promotion did not provide the fighter with a summary report of pay-per-view buys following Bellator 120. Jackson, who was supposed to receive extra compensation for each pay-per-view buy that exceeded 190,000, was informed orally of the number of buys by the promotion.

Judge Suter again sides with Bellator because Jackson did not dispute that the number of pay-per-view buys failed to surpass the 190,000 mark. Instead, he wanted the report as evidence of his claim that both he and the bout were not sufficiently promoted.

“Thus, it is reasonably probable Plaintiff will prevail on its contract claim, even without having produced the written reports, because the buy numbers that drive the defendant’s compensation figures are not in dispute,” Suter wrote. “Moreover, logically, Defendant offers no rationale for why Plaintiff would not want to market and promote one of its primary fighters.”

Finally, Judge Suter ruled that Bellator is likely to succeed on its breach of contract claim because Jackson failed to give the promotion five days to match the UFC’s contract offer. According to their original agreement, Bellator would have a 14-day “cure period” if it failed to pay Jackson and a 45-day “cure period” to fix all other contractual issues. If those issues are not addressed in within those respective “cure windows” then Jackson must provide a written notice of termination.

The five-day matching provision would have begun upon Bellator receiving a written termination notice, but Jackson did not follow the notice and matching rights provision. As a result, “the court finds that Plaintiff is reasonably likely to prevail on its claim that it did not have the opportunity to match whatever offer Defendant has for April 25th fight,” Suter wrote.

Whether Jackson agrees to fight for Bellator or another direction is taken remains to be seen. And despite Bellator being granted a preliminary injunction, the case could still have an entirely different result should it go to trial.


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