11 for 11: No. 5 Culinary workers versus Zuffa

December 26, 2011

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 became one of the biggest opponents of the UFC in 2011. It has helped opposed the legalization of professional MMA in New York state and has requested that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Zuffa for possible antitrust investigations.

In late August, the union sent a letter to the FTC requesting that it look into Zuffa’s acquisition of several of its competitors:

The letter goes on to point out that since 2001, Zuffa has acquired four of its key rivals (Pride Fighting Championship, World Extreme Cagefighting, the World Fighting Alliance, and most recently Strikeforce earlier this year.  They also state that through some independent research performed in 2008, Zuffa controls 80-90% of the mixed martial arts market.

Specifically, the letter points out that Zuffa has preserved and strengthened its dominance in the market through their unwillingness to co-promote events as well as anti-competitive contractual restraints placed on their contracted fighters.

As most know, the union’s beef with Zuffa stems from the Fertittas ownership of its Stations Casino. A failed attempt to unionize the workers at the Stations Casinos is the reason why there is staunch opposition to the legalization of MMA in New York. Lobbying efforts by the Culinary Workers have stifled efforts for passage of legislation allowing the UFC in New York.

USA Today reported in October that the union contacted Anheuser-Busch to boycott the UFC for “a history of tolerating homophobic conduct.” In addition, the Union has done the following to get its message across:

• Backing anti-MMA legislators in New York.

• Calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate UFC parent company Zuffa, which the union accuses of using monopolistic tactics to thwart competition from other promoters of mixed martial arts.

• Launching a website designed to highlight White’s use of vulgar language.

It will be interesting to see how much more the Culinary Workers will go to lobby against the UFC. The recent Zuffa lawsuit is a way around the union and lobbyists opposing MMA. So far, nothing is being reported about an FTC investigation of Zuffa and we will see if 2012 gives us any findings from the FTC about Zuffa and the claimed anti-competitive practices.

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