Lawsuit filed against World Series of Fighting looks like a sordid mess

October 29, 2015

A lawsuit filed this past Monday in federal court in Las Vegas by an assignee of rights against the World Series of Fighting may reveal some backstory about the inner workings behind the company.

The machinations of the lawsuit introduces the reader to a web of assignment of rights which related to keeping the World Series of Fighting afloat and expanding it internationally.  It involves a power struggle within the organization and a purported cover-up relating to WSOF’s matchmaker pulling dual time as promoter/manager and a violation of commission rules.  The lawsuit is being brought by WSOF Asia, an entity which claims to have the rights to the WSOF trademark outside the United States as well as the distribution rights for the organization outside of America. WSOF Asia, Limited, a Hong Kong Limited Liability Corporation (“LLC”).

The complaint alleges that Shawn Lampman founded WSOF in 2011.  Lampman has his own legal problems but that’s beside the point here.  The WSOF entity is a Nevada LLC known as “MMAWC” according to court documents but operating under the WSOF name.  The filing paints a picture of desperation for a fledgling MMA organization in need of an infusion of money.  A loan and investment of $700,000 was made in October 2012.  One of the investors was Vincent Hesser.

In exchange for the loan, the WSOF negotiated licensing rights and its trademark “WSOF” to Hesser.  A part of the deal also included an assignment to pursue any international expansion branding opportunities for a term of 60 months (i.e., 5 years)  Hesser had contacts in Asia that could have led to the expansion of the brand per the complaint.  In turn, Hesser assigned his rights to an entity named Royal Union Trust for the region of Asia.  Royal Union Trust then assigned its rights to WSOF Asia, the plaintiff.

Interesting enough, the allegation that Abdel Aziz is violating the rule that a promoter cannot also be a manager almost takes a backseat to some of the more serious allegations within the lawsuit.  Abdel Aziz and WSOF CEO Carlos Silva are named defendants in the lawsuit.  Silva was appointed CEO this past July.

The lawsuit claims that WSOF breached its contract with WSOF Asia as Hesser entered into an assignment agreement with WSOF but the MMAWC entity claims to have repudiated the agreement.  Hesser claims in the lawsuit that he and “his assigns” (i.e., the people he assigned the rights to) spent $200,000 in out of pocket expenses to build the WSOF brand overseas.

It is requesting a declaratory judgment validating the assignment of rights to WSOF Asia.  In addition, money damages in excess of $75,000, costs and attorney fees.

WSOF Lawsuit

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Notably, the WSOF renewed an agreement with IMG for media distribution rights which may conflict with the alleged assignment by the plaintiff.

The lawsuit will be a sordid mess if it gets past a Motion to Dismiss which is likely to be brought by MMAWC and the defendants.  The lawsuit boils down to various assignments of assets in order to infuse WSOF with capital and build the brand.  Among the many questions will be who had control and authority over WSOF and when they had it.  The central question will be whether there was an assignment of rights and were the assignments valid per the terms of the contract.  The lawsuit might reveal the inner struggles of a startup looking for capital.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

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