UFC demands retraction from MMA web site
April 17, 2012
The UFC issued a press release Tuesday announcing it had served a demand for retraction from MMA web site Cage Potato. In Nevada, the demand is a prelude to a defamation lawsuit.
The UFC’s issue concerns a post on the web site on April 14th. The post is in regards to Jon Jones wearing UFC branded gear in his upcoming fight April 21st. The offending issue appears to be the picture and caption used by the web site. The picture, taken from the White-Jones Bud Light commercial which ran last year, included a caption which stated White was betting on Jones this Saturday. The web site oftentimes takes a satirical tone with its stories and captions. Of course, the caption was a joke. However, the demand for retraction was no laughing matter.
Via UFC press release:
As detailed in the formal demand for a retraction prepared by UFC® attorney, Donald J. Campbell of the Las Vegas law firm, Campbell & Williams:
“The claim that Mr. White would financially wager on the outcome of a UFC® event is outrageous in the extreme. Indeed, in the verified complaint we are presently preparing for Mr. White’s signature upon his return from Abu Dhabi, Mr. White expressly states under oath that at no time in the history of his association with the UFC® has he ever financially wagered on the outcome of a UFC® event.”
Mr. Campbell further explained that under Nevada law a demand for retraction is the first required step in the filing of a lawsuit seeking punitive damages against a party that has maliciously published defamatory statements about another.
Cage Potato complied with the demand and issued its retraction on the site. Cage Potato’s managing editor Ben Goldstein spoke to USA Today about the issue:
“This is just so silly that I want to print this retraction and get this behind us,” Goldstein said. “I have no (problem) saying on our website, ‘Look, it’s just a joke. We didn’t mean it to be intended this way.’ I’m just not interested in turning this into some sort of beef with UFC. It’s really not that important to me.”
Via social media, it appears that Dana White is still not cool with the situation despite the retraction.
It’s an interesting strategy by the UFC as to how it is dealing with this. We probably know it has to do everything with the joke being about gambling on the sport. The UFC is likely sensitive to the perception that the UFC is fixed – especially since its top draw for the past couple years, Brock Lesnar, was a former pro wrestler…and has returned to sports entertainment. While most MMA fans will likely think this is ridiculous, there is a huge population out there that are beginning to watch the sport because it is now on Fox.
Another point in the gambling angle is the fact that the Fertittas own casinos and they do not want any inference that they bet on the sport.
The UFC brand is another reason. It wants to protect the brand and ensure that there is no inference of gambling. While it could have made a request for the web site to take the offending piece down without much news, it decided to make the formal request and press release. Thus, it served notice on others on how it would handle people that defamed the UFC.
As for the legal strategy, the Fight Lawyer points out a lawsuit may open up Dana White’s reputation in discovery. This could potentially stir up issues for White and the UFC not related to the lawsuit, yet still discoverable .