Zuffa files opposition to Bellator motion to quash subpoena
March 9, 2017
Zuffa has filed its opposition to Bellator’s Motion to Quash Subpoenas issued by the company in its lawsuit filed by former fighters. Zuffa argues it is in need of three requests it made to Bellator and made exhaustive attempts (over 18 months) to work with the company on narrowing the scope.
Zuffa claims it does not normally seek non-public information from a competitor but they must have access “to defend against the antitrust lawsuit…”
A Federal Magistrate will hear the arguments from both sides on March 29th in Los Angeles.
The three requests at issue are:
- Bellator’s unredacted contracts;
- Documents regarding its negotiations with athletes; and
- Limited financial information including profit/loss statements and financial projections.
Zuffa claims that the request for contract documents will show the “intense competition” within Plaintiffs’ “Elite Professional MMA Fighter services” market. Documents regarding negotiations with athletes will also demonstrate that the UFC is not the “only game in town” and there is competition for fighters. It will also show that Bellator offers its athletes competitive compensation. Additionally, argues that Bellator’s Financial Information will reveal that it has not been foreclosed from the alleged market set by Plaintiffs.
It also argues that the requests are proportional to the needs of case. Essentially, Zuffa is asking only what it needs from Bellator and rebuts the Viacom-owned company’s assertion in its Motion to Quash that the requests are not proportional. In its brief, Zuffa cites the importance of the documents indicating “…issues at stake in the Nevada Action have the potential to fundamentally reshape the entire MMA industry.”
Zuffa attorneys argue that confidential information would not be made public or even disclosed to Zuffa. The protective order currently in place allows Bellator to designate its information with the title HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS” EYES ONLY. This would ensure that the public or Zuffa employees would never see the information. This discovery designation is sometimes utilized in highly sensitive cases with company documents. In addition, Zuffa cites case law (notably, no cases in the 9th circuit, the controlling authority for this court) citing that motions to quash are “routinely denied” when there are “adequate protections for the commercially sensitive information.”
It also argues that in the antitrust lawsuit in Nevada, Zuffa has produced over 651,000 documents with 241,00 identified as Highly Confidential. The Plaintiffs, according to Zuffa, have produced approximately 64,000 docs with 4,300 docs identified as highly confidential. Third parties have produced 241,000 docs with 2,800 being designated as highly confidential. Zuffa makes the point that none of the highly confidential documents were disseminated to anyone other than attorneys and experts in the lawsuit. Thus, Zuffa and/or the Plaintiffs have not seen any of the documents flagged highly confidential.
The opposition briefing includes two declarations. One from one of Zuffa’s attorneys highlighting the account of how it attempted to work with Bellator on accessing the documents under the subpoena requests. Another declaration is from a Zuffa-retained expert citing the need for the documents requested to address the issues in the antitrust lawsuit.
You can expect the Federal Magistrate that will hear this motion to weigh the benefits of producing the documents against the business trade secrets of Bellator. If you are Bellator, you are fighting this to the end because there is always a chance that someone (knowingly or unknowingly) violates the terms of a protective order. At that point, you can’t unring the bell. Zuffa wants to appear reasonable to the magistrate and indicates that it is willing to continue to work with Bellator to get the documents it needs.
The hearing is March 29th in LA. MMA Payout will keep you posted.