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Court Grants Class Certification in UFC Antitrust Lawsuit


The antitrust case against the Ultimate Fighting Championship is moving forward in a big way.

First reported by Bloody Elbow on Wednesday, federal Judge Richard F. Boulware has granted class certification to the plaintiffs of the antitrust suit against the UFC. The lawsuit was first filed in late 2014, and it will now be considered a class action suit, which allows over 1,200 fighters to sue the UFC together. The class will encompass all fighters that competed for Zuffa from Dec. 16, 2010 to June 30, 2017. This specific “bout class” was certified, and not the “identity class,” opening the door for a case that will likely proceed for years.

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The two different classes broke down fighters into two, not mutually exclusive, groups. The “bout class” that was certified includes all fighters that competed in at least one UFC fight. As for the “identity class” that did not get certified, those members were potentially suing for exploitation of their identity including merchandizing and promotional items. As a result, one of the major members representing the class, Nate Quarry, will no longer be one of the plaintiffs named as suing the UFC. The others including Cung Le and Jon Fitch will still represent the “bout class” going forward.

The plaintiffs are suing the UFC for damages, with a range of $811 million to upwards of $1.6 billion. Due to the case being related to antitrust regulations, the damages would be tripled by the court should the plaintiffs win the case. Additionally, future business dealings involving the UFC and its fighter contracts would also be significantly transformed if they prevail. The claims include that the UFC was an illegal monopoly or monopsony, which engaged in unlawful business practices that lowered overall fighter pay and harmed competitive organizations. Back in 2020, Judge Boulware indicated that he would grant the certification, and he officially approved it on Wednesday.

One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Eric Cramer, posted on social media late Wednesday night celebrating the success, writing, “Thrilled to announce that the court in the UFC case has certified the class of [MMA] fighters. We look forward to demonstrating our allegations that the UFC has abused its market power to suppress fighter pay before a jury in Las Vegas. The fight for fighter justice continues!”

In the order obtained by Bloody Elbow, Judge Boulware noted that the UFC had “willfully engaged in anticompetitive conduct to maintain or increase their market power.” It did so in multiple ways, including “through the enforcement of exclusionary contracts” and “through extracontractual methods to make fighter contract effective perpetual” as well as “through acquisition and shutting down of rivals.” The case will proceed via a status conference on Aug. 21.

According to a statement provided to ESPN by the UFC’s chief counsel, William A. Isaacson, the UFC is preparing to file an appeal of this decision. “We have anticipated this decision, and as we have previously communicated to Judge Boulware, we plan to appeal,” he said. “This is just one step in a long legal process, and we are confident that the Court will ultimately recognize that the claims outlined in this lawsuit are legally and factually meritless. UFC’s own continued growth accompanied by the growth of other established MMA promoters and the prevalence of successful new market entrants all demonstrate the existence of a healthy and competitive MMA market which benefits athletes, promoters, and fans alike.”

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