Former Employee Zach Light Files Lawsuit Against Bellator MMA

By Tristen Critchfield May 26, 2016

Zach Light has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against former employer Bellator MMA and parent company Viacom.

According to documents obtained by Bloody Elbow’s Paul Gift, Light is protesting “certain illegal practices jeopardizing the health and safety of professional fighters and mixed martial artists all for the defendants’ profit and financial gain.”

Light, who previously fought for the UFC and Strikeforce in his MMA career, was hired as Bellator’s Talent Development Director under former promotion head Bjorn Rebney. In the complaint Light alleges that Bellator’s business practices changed when Scott Coker become CEO in June 2014.

Light makes several damning accusations toward the California-based promotion in the complaint. Light alleges that heavyweight fighter Ryan Martinez’s medicals were forged prior to Bellator 126 in Phoenix on Sept. 26, 2014 and that fighters on the Bellator 131 card in San Diego submitted medicals performed by someone who was not a licensed physician.

Full details from that portion of the complaint are as follows:

"Approximately 48 hours prior to Martinez's scheduled fight at Bellator 126, [Light] promptly reported what he had learned to Rich Chou, defendant BELLATOR's Vice President of Talent. Chou assured [Light] that he would follow up and that [Light] should focus on his job. When [Light] heard nothing further from Chou, he approached Coker regarding Martinez' impending fight based on forged medicals, in violation of Arizona law. Coker told [Light] to ‘do what Chou told you to do,' without addressing these issues. Thereafter, [Light] again brought the subject up to Chou. Chou threatened [Light] with termination if he kept pushing the issue. [Light] later learned that after losing his bout, Martinez never resumed his mixed martial arts career.

"Prior to the Bellator 131 event, [Light] told Coker that fighters had been suspended for using Rendon to sign their medicals because Rendon was not a licensed physician. Coker told [Light], ‘a lot of people at Bellator are going to lose their jobs next week. Do you want to keep yours?' Coker added, ‘then stay in your lane and stop making waves!' Fearful of losing his job, [Light] said nothing further regarding the falsified medical reports.”

Light also claims that manager Anthony McGann was referrred to by Coker ask a “f—-ing terrorist” and Coker asked Light to book that manager’s fighters in bouts they were likely to lose. According to Light, Coker was upset when Quinton Jackson, who was represented by McGann, signed with the UFC while still under Bellator contract.

"Coker told [Light] to ‘get the terrorist's fighters beaten and beaten badly,' thereby allowing Coker to cut ties between defendant BELLATOR and McCann [sic]. [Light] was required to arrange fights between McGann's fighters and opponents who would convincingly defeat them,” the complaint read. “Such outcomes would then enable Coker to have a convenient pretext to terminate McGann's fighters' promotional contracts with defendant BELLATOR. Such collusive matches were tantamount to fight fixing and constituted a fraud on ticket buyers, fight patrons, television viewers, advertisers, and the public at large, as well as McGann and the professional fighters he managed.”

Additionally, Light alleges that MMA manager Mike Kogan was hired by Bellator in an executive position while continuing to represent fighters under contract with the promotion, which is a conflict of interest and in violation of California Business and Professions Code. Light also claims that another Bellator employee was allowed to transport fighters, managers and commission officials in a company van despite having his license suspended from a DUI. In both instances, Light says was rebuffed by promotion officials when he attempted to bring attention to the respective situation.

Light was granted a medical leave after suffering an anxiety attack following Bellator 136 in April 2015. He was terminated on March 17, 2016. According to the complaint, Light is seeking economic, general and punitive damages and “cost of suit incurred” in the wrongful dismissal suit.

“We are unable to comment on pending litigation,” a Bellator official informed on Thursday.


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