Zuffa Suing Pavia, Bellator

July 30, 2010

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports MMA is reporting that Zuffa has filed a lawsuit against MMA agent Ken Pavia and Bellator Fighting Championship alleging the theft of trade secrets.

According to the suit, filed Wednesday in Clark County District Court, Pavia delivered confidential contracts, including fighter agreements, to Bellator after being asked to do so in a July 4 email to him from Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney.

Payout Perspective:

Here’s where the financial size and scale of Zuffa becomes a huge advantage for the company. Zuffa can afford to absorb the cost of a court battle, but can Bellator? It really doesn’t even matter what the outcome of the lawsuit is, because from a competitive standpoint this is probably going to harm Bellator.

The question now is whether this is a good thing for Zuffa. I’m with the company on protecting its intellectual property, and I tend to agree with the notion that it is the one laying the ground work that others are trying to capitalize on. Zuffa undoubtedly feels like it’s being hit on all sides: pirating and illegal distribution of Zuffa programming; trademark infringement; careless promoters damaging the sport’s reputation through cutting corners on things like safety; theft of intellectual property, etc.

However, this lawsuit may also prove to be counter-productive in one area. Dana White often talks about needing these “other guys” to act as feeder organizations, but in suing Bellator, Zuffa may end up eliminating a great feeder system.

Bellator is not a competitor to Zuffa. It’s got an unattractive television deal, poor production quality, zero capital for marketing or PR and a host of fighters looking to use the organization as a stepping stone. It’s not a threat to Zuffa.

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This isn’t the first time that Pavia and the UFC have butted heads. Some of you may recall that Pavia was the source behind a story that Loretta Hunt wrote about managers and agents losing backstage credentials. The story turned out to be inaccurate, but more notably it was also the subject of Dana White’s now infamous Youtube tirade against Hunt and Pavia in which he derided the pair with a host of discriminatory slurs.

19 Responses to “Zuffa Suing Pavia, Bellator”

  1. joe t. on July 30th, 2010 10:37 AM

    Man. This is super interesting to me. One issue not discussed is the potential backlash against Pavia’s clientele by UFC brass. Why would UFC give any concessions in negotiations to Pav’s mid-level ufc fighters? Although the Pav has been in “trouble” for his backstage credential gate, using the UFC contrac format/terms and subbing in Bellator for UFC directly harms/violated the confidentiality perscribed in the terms. This is much more serious than credential gate. (if the allegations/emails are in fact true and accurate.)

  2. The Effect of Zuffa’s Lawsuit Against Bellator « MMA Planet on July 30th, 2010 10:58 AM

    […] and Ken Pavia.  I don’t know what a loss in court would entail, but it cannot be good.  As MMA Payout mentions, Zuffa has the money to spend in court and Bellator does not.  Therefore, what would […]

  3. Machiel Van on July 30th, 2010 11:01 AM

    IF the allegations are true, there really isn’t a choice for Zuffa here. No self-respecting business would allow this sort of violation go, and neither should Zuffa. If the allegations are false, then it is a pointless move. Time will tell and if the allegations are true, Ken Pavia and Bjorn Rebney are INCREDIBLY stupid.

  4. Machiel Van on July 30th, 2010 11:01 AM

    What I would like to know is how copies of these emails were commandeered. It always seems like people get caught for things due to emails. I don’t get, it I delete any email I don’t need and I’m not even doing anything illegal. Why do people save these incriminating emails??

  5. Adam Swift on July 30th, 2010 11:18 AM

    I think this is more about sending a message to agents rather than to promoters.

  6. Nick Oliver on July 30th, 2010 11:34 AM

    What about the champion’s clause in Bellator? I have heard that they have one, which will make it difficult for Zuffa to pick up talent from them. If true, all of the good prospects will be locked up or coming off a loss.

  7. Machiel Van on July 30th, 2010 12:08 PM

    What’s the message Adam, “Don’t illegally violate the confidentiality of our contracts”? It doesn’t seem to be a message to me, just a standard law suit that tells agents what they already know: it is illegal to violate the confidentiality of contracts between fighters and promotions, and if you do so you will be subjected to a lawsuit. I don’t think agents need to be “sent a message” or Ken Pavia needs to be “made an example of” to drive this point home, it is just illegal.

  8. Machiel Van on July 30th, 2010 12:13 PM

    The article given in the second post is just conjecture, not really worth the read.

  9. Machiel Van on July 30th, 2010 12:18 PM

    Off topic: whatever happened to “Fox Fight Game”? I miss your commentary on that show, Adam, you are a good speaker. Do you take part in any other MMA analyst shows?

  10. Jason on July 30th, 2010 12:23 PM

    Dana has to make an example out of both Bellator and Ken Pavia.

  11. Mike on July 30th, 2010 12:34 PM

    The most interesting angle to me is, how come so many reporters haven’t done anything on this? Not a word about this story on Sherdog. Not a word on MMAFighting. Not a word on SI.com. There’s always a lot of talk about media outlets being too close to Zuffa, what about reporters who might be too close to Pavia? Are they trying to bury this story?

  12. Matt C. on July 30th, 2010 2:43 PM

    To me the most interesting take I’ve seen on this has been what this actually does to Pavia’s clients. That fact that Pavia seems to be going out of his way to help make Bellator have better contracts could be seen as a direct conflict of interest for the fighters he represents that fight in Bellator. I mean why would Pavia do this to help Bellator get better contracts when it’s his job to get the best contract for his clients not for Bellator?

    Now this is just wild speculation but Pavia has to be getting something out of the deal right? Why do it if he isn’t getting anything out of it? Is Bellator giving Pavia kick backs on contracts or something? What is Pavia getting out of this from Bellator and is what he getting at the detriment of the fighters he represents?

  13. Stan Kosek on July 30th, 2010 3:02 PM

    I’m with the posters who say if Zuffa has a good faith belief that these allegations are true they really have no choice, to me this isn’t merky at all. You can’t have other orgs. walking around using your paperwork, that you spent money and probably some bad experiences perfecting, just is flat out not acceptable.

  14. Stan Kosek on July 30th, 2010 3:08 PM

    Machiel,

    about the e-mails, numerous ways Zuffa could have been made aware and obtained them. For starters, the most simple one, people are dumb and arrogant and never think they’ll get caught… again simple, but it happens. Also, a disgruntled employee could have leaked them, not subject to search and seizure since it’s not a government agency obtaining them. Also, if you “delete” something doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, never, NEVER piss off the IT person at your work.

  15. joe t. on July 30th, 2010 3:42 PM

    never, NEVER piss off the IT person at your work.

    hahaha. so true. dont start shit with food servers who touch your food… same thing

  16. Jeremy on July 30th, 2010 4:40 PM

    Bellator’s lawyer Patrick English has confirmed that the emails (English said Rebney’s email “was phrased in an unfortunate way.”) are real and that they did get documents from Pav (“There were documents sent by Mr. Pavia to Bellator, but they are not of a competitive nature and they would give no advantage or disadvantage to the viewer. The bulk of them in no way, shape or form would be considered confidential and are not what I consider to be documents that Zuffa should be concerned about”). The only question is how valuable the documents are.

    Zuffa may be overeacting, but both Pav and Bellator had to know what was going to happen if Zuffa found out. Why in God’s name would you do something like this after Zuffa sued the IFL along the lines?

  17. jv on July 30th, 2010 6:39 PM

    >>”The most interesting angle to me is, how come so many reporters haven’t done anything on this? Not a word about this story on Sherdog. Not a word on MMAFighting. Not a word on SI.com. There’s always a lot of talk about media outlets being too close to Zuffa, what about reporters who might be too close to Pavia? Are they trying to bury this story?”

    Obviously the story was leaked by Zuffa and none of those sites you list is on the Zuffa “Do what your freaking told” list. 99% of what you read at sites that are “covering” the story are just regurgitating the original story.

  18. Adam Swift on July 31st, 2010 8:15 AM

    Machiel – not saying UFC isn’t right to sue, just that I think they’re a lot more concerned about agents sharing their trade secrets in the form of contracts than they are about Bellator utilzing them.

  19. Mike on July 31st, 2010 5:08 PM

    <<Obviously the story was leaked by Zuffa and none of those sites you list is on the Zuffa “Do what your freaking told” list. 99% of what you read at sites that are “covering” the story are just regurgitating the original story.

    Maybe, but the media sources that aren't on your so-called "do what you're freaking told list" have just as much a journalistic obligation to cover all sides of a story. And two days after this story broke, Sherdog, whose main editor uses Pavia as one of her biggest industry sources, still has yet to write a word about the lawsuit.

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