Plaintiffs file Opposition to UFC’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Antitrust lawsuit

September 21, 2018

Plaintiffs in the Zuffa Antitrust Lawsuit have filed their Opposition to UFC’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  The 47-page long opposition brief includes over 100 exhibits, many of which are redacted, or include deposition transcripts with redactions.

The main argument in the Plaintiffs’ Opposition is that the UFC is the “major league” of MMA and it has done so through predatory means.  The theory asserted is that it has become the top of the food chain in MMA through its retention of top-level fighters.  It argues that “a critical mass” of elite fighters is necessary to compete with the UFC.  But, the UFC’s scheme has foreclosed this opportunity.

Despite the fact Zuffa argued in its motion that there was ample competition within the industry as evidenced through testimony of rival MMA promoters and fighters that left the organization, Plaintiffs argue that the “supposed evidence of Fighter mobility merely reflects that the UFC is the “major league” of MMA and cuts Fighters who do not meet its standard.”

Plaintiffs argue in their brief that Zuffa’s anticompetive scheme was “designed to lock in current and potential top fighters to exclusive contracts for the most valuable parts of their careers.”

Oppos to MSJ – Plaintiffs by on Scribd

It noted that Zuffa used its market leverage to extend exclusivity over its fighters. This was done through coercion, intimidation and other means of forcible persuasion.  This included four ways outlined by Plaintiffs and evidenced through deposition transcripts.  This included:

  • Move Fighters to unfavorable placement on the fight card for an event
  • Control the timing of a bout (refuse to off Fighters bouts)
  • Delay a Fighter from competing for another promoter through the Right to Match and Exclusive Negotiation clauses in its contract.
  • Deprive fighters of title opportunities

Plaintiffs argue that Zuffa’s scheme impaired competition through locking up the majority of top fighters, deprived rival promoters of the key input of top fighters and relegated other promoters to feeder or minor leagues.  It calls out other promoters cited in Zuffa’s motion that indicated that they could compete “are not credible and are disputed.”  In fact, Plaintiffs show why Bellator, OneFC and PFL’s statements indicating that they are on par with the UFC are false.  Also, noted in a footnote to the motion, Absolute Championship Berkut, also recognized as a direct competitor, noted the cancellation of three events due to “organizational and financial problems.”

The Plaintiffs cite Dr. Singer’s expert report regarding the input and output markets and its showing how Zuffa has suppressed fighters’ wages, restricted the output of fighter services and excluded rivals.  Plaintiffs also argue that the acquisitions of other organizations by the UFC stifled competition and restricted fighter mobility.

Payout Perspective:

There is a lot to digest here and MMA Payout will take a deeper dive into the opposition including the evidence used by Plaintiffs.  The crux of their opposition is that the UFC’s anticompetitive scheme is based upon the retention of top tier fighters through exclusive contracts.  It locked in top fighters during their “most valuable parts of their careers” and was to leverage its market power to extend exclusivity.  As a result, it impaired competition despite the views of rival promoters that indicated it had no problem signing fighters it wanted.  As a result of the scheme, the anticompetitive effects included suppression of fighters’ compensation, reduction of “quality” MMA events and it suppressed marketwide output of MMA Events and inflated prices.  Furthermore, Zuffa cannot show that the contractual exclusivity provided procompetitive benefits which may outweigh the anticompetitive effects.

Zuffa has a chance to offer a Reply to this Opposition which will be submitted on November 2nd.

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