Court denies Alvarez’s preliminary injunction application
January 25, 2013
The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey denied Eddie Alvarez’s request for a preliminary injunction so that he might be able to appear at UFC 159. The court held that Alvarez could not satisfy his burden of proof for a preliminary injunction.
The Court heard oral arguments this morning and rendered its decision this afternoon. The Court held that Alvarez could not satisfy the first 2 elements for issuance of a preliminary injunction. First, the Court held that Alvarez could not show a reasonable probability of success on the merits. Second, he could not show irreparable harm.
The Court held that Bellator had satisfied its matching rights of Zuffa’s contract. It would not look into the word for word matching of terms but determined that it would apply a “common-sense interpretation to the word “match.””
Notably, the Court would not examine the issues regarding weighing Fox versus Spike TV or the issue of Zuffa’s PPV offer. Rather, it stated that while Alvarez may prevail at a later date, it would not today.
In a footnote, the Court indicated that it would not and could not find Bellator in breach of contract if it doesn’t provide its own PPV. So, despite the fact that Bellator has not put on a PPV and there have been no indications of a PPV outside of these legal negotiations, the Court would not decide on an event that may or may not occur in the future.
Even if the Court ruled in its favor with element 1, it did not determine element 2 to satisfy the burden. The Court held that Alvarez was basing the fact that he would be irreparably harmed on speculation. Specifically, the argument that Alvarez would lose out on “notoriety, endorsements and a wider exposure to viewers” would require the Court to make speculative assumptions on what might or might not happen as a result of his participation on April 27th.
Furthermore, Alvarez’s brief cited two cases in which preliminary injunctions were granted on behalf of professional athletes based on the fact that they would be irreparably injured if they would not be able to pursue their career in the manner in which they saw fit. However, those cases differed as in each there was an illegal restraint that necessitated the players to be granted an injunction. The Court held that Bellator was not imposing an illegal restraint on Alvarez and he is not precluded from competing professionally if the injunction were not granted. Thus, Alvarez could not prove element 2.
(H/t: Fight Lawyer)
Bad news for Alvarez as Bellator has won a big battle. The Court punted on two of the more interesting issues in the matching rights debate: comparison of networks and PPV. Perhaps punt is not fair considering the limited scope the Court was willing to evaluate on a preliminary injunction. However, the lack of resolution and definition on the issues leaves it primed for further litigation. As the Court indicated, Alvarez may still prevail in his claims, but he could not obtain a preliminary injunction.
More likely, we will see a settlement of some sort between the parties. Perhaps even mediation to resolve the dispute. Its not clear if we will see Alvarez sign with Bellator or if the parties workout a deal where Alvarez will eventually land in Zuffa.
MMA Payout will continue to follow.