Former wrestler sues Activision over video game character

February 19, 2019

Former professional wrestler Booker T (real name Robert Huffman) has sued Activision claiming that a character in the video game maker’s Black Ops 4 resembles a character he created.

“G.I. Bro” is a character created by Huffman for a comic book series.  He even wrestled under this name for a short time.  The lawsuit claims that Huffman has filed for all the requisite copyrights for GI Bro and did this prior to Activision’s use of the character in its latest video game.

As a result, Huffman claims copyright infringement as a result and is requesting that a jury decide the case.  The lawsuit is filed in a federal court in Texas which is notorious for leniency of plaintiffs bringing patent law cases.  Perhaps Booker’s attorneys hope for the same “home field” advantage here.

It is worthy to note that several years back, UFC fighter Felice Herrig claimed that a Mortal Kombat character looked similar to in appearance and may have been based on her.  Fortunately for Herrig, she did not file a lawsuit and perhaps was looking for some publicity and a tie-in with the video game maker.

Booker T sues Activision by on Scribd

Alas, unfortunately for Booker this lawsuit is getting widely panned by copyright law experts.  The character created by Huffman may have similarities to the video game character named Prophet, but in the video game series there is a backstory for the character which would differentiate itself from the Bro character. Moreover, there is nothing similar between the two characters aside from the depiction.  They are not similarly named or have the same story or are from the same genre which are very important if you were to have a legitimate copyright infringement claim.

Also, we have Lindsay Lohan’s failed attempt at a right of publicity lawsuit when she attempted to sue Grand Theft Auto for a character that resembled the actress.  While not a copyright lawsuit, the opinion clearly made a distinction between characters that had similar features but did not break any type of copyright or right of publicity laws.

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN (2/15) outshines Bellator on Friday night

February 19, 2019

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN on February 15th drew 704,000 viewers per Nielsen according to ShowBuzz Daily.  The event featured Rob Brant as he scored an 11th round KO over the previously undefeated Khasan Bayasangurov.

The telecast peaked at 769,000 viewers and was likely aided by the lead-in of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.

Live Boxing on ESPN 2019

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN (2/2):  880,000 viewers

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN (2/10):  655,000 viewers

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN (2/15) 704,000 viewers

Payout Perspective:

As we noted with the Bellator post, the ratings for Top Rank on ESPN Friday night well-exceeded its MMA competition on the Paramount Network.  As stated, the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game helped as a lead-in.  Of course, being on the main ESPN network also helps with just many having the network on as habit.

Bellator 215 draws 365,000 viewers on Paramount Network Friday night

February 19, 2019

Bellator MMA 215 drew 365,000 viewers on the Paramount Network Friday night according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily. The ratings continue a precipitous slide for the promotion on television.

The event was the first of two nights for the promotion in Uncasville, Connecticut. Friday night’s event featured Matt Mitrione taking on Sergei Kharitonov in a Heavyweight matchup. However, the fight never came to fruition as an errant Mitrione kick hit Kharitonov for a low blow and the Russian could not continue.

The ratings reflect a continued drop in viewership for Bellator. One might argue that viewership may have been skewed since the event was also on DAZN. Yet, the ratings have seen a downturn over the years.

Payout Perspective:

Top Rank Boxing on Friday night scored 704,000 viewers on ESPN in the same time slot. While Bellator 214 did well in the ratings, the lack of consistency here should be a concern for the promotion. As Jed I. Goodman points out, there is a downward trend in viewership since its time on Spike.

Davis tops PBC payouts from February 9th event

February 19, 2019

MMA Payout has obtained the payouts from the February 9, 2019 event at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California which featured Gervonta Davis taking on Hugo Ruiz.  Davis led the TGB Promotions payroll making $1 million for his 1st round KO of Ruiz.

Ruiz, a last-minute replacement for the injured Abner Mares, received $100,000.  Some other notable payouts include Ishe Smith as he earned $75,000 for his bout against Erickson Lubin who earned $41,500.  Lubin took the victory in that matchup.  Javier Fortuna earned $40,000 while his opponent Sharif Bogere drew $75,000.  Bogere won via unanimous decision.

The rest of the payouts can be found below.

2-9-19 TGB Payouts by on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

Clearly Davis was the showcase for this event and Ruiz received an adequate payout  $100,000 for filling in last minute.  But, Davis should be a name to lookout for this year as he’ll be looking for bigger fights and perhaps that fight against Mares somewhere down the road.

Fury signs with Top Rank putting Wilder rematch in doubt

February 18, 2019

Undefeated lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has inked a co-promotional deal with Top Rank which will allow him to appear on the ESPN network. The question becomes what will happen to a much-anticipated rematch with Premier Boxing Champions and World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder.

The Fury-Wilder rematch was reportedly close to fruition, but with the new wrinkle of Fury signing with a rival promotion and network, the fight may be on hold.  The December 1, 2018 fight between Wilder and Fury occurred on Showtime Boxing’s PPV.

The news now has put a damper on the possible rematch with Deontay Wilder which ended in a draw.  The fight was highlighted by Fury going down to a vicious shot from Wilder in the final round only for him to rise from the blow to finish the round.

Payout Perspective:

Fury’s signing is another indicator of the splintering of combat sports.  Unless the sides can agree to a deal to pit the top two heavyweights in boxing, the sport will once again fall victim to promoters carving out their territory.  Can the sides come to a deal?  Of course, but it undoubtedly puts the rematch on the back burner.

UFC Fight Night on ESPN 1 draws big ratings

February 18, 2019

ESPN reports that Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night on ESPN 1 drew a 1.1 metered market rating while the prelims drew a 0.7 rating. Overall, ESPN indicated that the five-hour window on ESPN drew an average of 0.9.

The partnership between the UFC and ESPN is going well for the promotion as through 3 linear television events, ESPN has aired the three highest-rated UFC telecasts on cable since the beginning of 2017.

Although the ratings will not come out until later this week, ESPN notes that the overnight ratings reflect that it’s the highest-rated UFC Fight Night on cable since UFC Fight Night 81 from January 2016. That event drew a 1.4 rating. The ratings drew an impressive 2.288 million viewers with the prelims posting 1.767 million on FS1.

While Sunday’s night event featuring a heavyweight matchup between Francis Ngannou and Cain Velasquez ended abruptly, it posted an impressive viewership rating. The Prelims which preceded the event also posted strong ratings.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that there are more ESPN subscribers than there are FS1 subscribers which helps with viewership. Despite the NBA All-Star game on at the same time, the UFC did well as it was on the main network and other ESPN programming did not really interfere as the UFC was the main sport on Sunday night for the network.

UFC on ESPN 1 attendance, gate and bonuses

February 17, 2019

UFC on ESPN 1 took place on Sunday night with the whole card airing on the main network.  The event took place at The Talking Stick Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Fight of the Night went to Vincente Luque and Bryan Barbaerena in a heavy-hitting welterweight matchup.  Luque outlasted Barbarena with seconds to spare in the third-round.  In addition, Luke Sanders KO’d Renan Barao and Kron Gracie choked out Alex Caceres in the first round to earn the Performance bonuses.  All received an additional $50K.

14,269 fans attended the event and drew a gate of $1,409,447.  The numbers were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

The obvious disappointment of the night was Cain Velasquez losing within the first 30 seconds of the main event to Francis Ngannou in what looked like a knee injury more than damage.  This put a damper on an event that had some great fights during the night despite a fickle Phoenix crowd.

Former managers of Bellator Heavyweight sue for breaching representation contract

February 15, 2019

The former manager of Vitaly Minakov has sued his current manager Ali Abdelaziz along with Minakov in Orange County Superior Court in California last month.

RusFighters LLC, Minakov’s former agency is suing Minakov and MMA Manager Ali Abdelaziz alleging breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations and declaratory relief.  The lawsuit was filed on January 16, 2019 in Orange County Superior Court as one can infer that Bellator’s contract has a clause that all lawsuits arising under the contract are litigated in Orange County.

Minakov has a showdown against fellow heavyweight Cheick Kongo on Saturday night.

According to the lawsuit, Minakov signed a contract with RusFighters to represent him in February 2016.  Minakov agreed to pay RusFighters 20% of the gross “performance compensation” he receives for each fight.  The heavyweight’s former agents claim that the contract ended on February 13, 2019 and he could not retain another agent until this date.

The Complaint states that Minakov signed on with Abdelaziz in August 2018 and he helped the heavyweight sign a six-fight deal with Bellator with a downside of $300,000 per fight with a total minimum value of $1.8 million.

Payout Perspective:

This appears to be an accusation of client-poaching with Abdelaziz working with Minakov without RusFighters knowing.  One need only look to the Leslie Smith/Nate Diaz agent dispute to see that switching agents may lead to disputes. This lawsuit is gaining some notoriety since it includes Abdelaziz, one of the more polarizing agents in MMA (just ask MMA fans).  Without a response yet from Minakov, one might expect that he will claim that the contract with his former agency was oppressive (20% gross) and/or they did not deliver what Minakov wanted.  The 3-year deal between Minakov and RusFighters will certainly be challenged.  The terms (6 fights x $300K per fight) that Abdelaziz allegedly negotiated for Minakov seem to be at the top of end for a Bellator fighter.  RusFighters may have been able to obtain the same terms but that is difficult to know at this point.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Court dismisses all but one claim in Mark Hunt’s lawsuit against the UFC

February 14, 2019

In a 28-page order filed on Thursday, the United States District Court of Nevada dismissed all but one of UFC fighter Mark Hunt’s claims in his lawsuit alleging among its claims breach of contract, fraud and RICO Violations against the UFC.

The Order dismissed White and Lesnar in the lawsuit  leaving just the UFC as the lone defendant.  For background of the case, you can go here.

An analysis of the Motion to Dismiss hearing is here.

Order on Motion to Dismiss by on Scribd

The Court had allowed Hunt the right to amend his Complaint to include further details supporting his claims under RICO Act violations and fraud. However, the Court was not persuaded by Hunt’s amended and supplemental complaint.

In total, 9 out of the 10 claims in Hunt’s lawsuit were dismissed.

The Court determined that Hunt’s claims under the state and federal RICO statutes failed because either the allegations were “non-cognizable damages or failed to plead facts to show” a proximate cause to his financial losses.

The Court specifically took aim at Hunt’s loss to Lesnar at UFC 200.  The Court did not agree with Hunt that due to his loss to Lesnar, it proximately caused ancillary injuries to Hunt including cancelled promotional events post-UFC 200 costing him over $90,000 in appearance fees, a “dip” in his social media popularity and diminished advertising fees as well as a loss of licensing fees and sales for his personal clothing brand.   Here, the Court could not side with Hunt and believed that his RICO allegations failed for lack of proximate cause as they were “fatally speculative.”

In response to Hunt’s arguments that it could introduce expert testimony at a later stage of litigation to show the causation, the Court cited to precedent which stated that “it does not mean that the mere possibility of expert testimony down the line can rehabilitate allegations that insufficiently establish proximate causation.”  Moreover, the Court concludes that his claims cannot prove that Hunt would have beaten Lesnar if he was not doping.

As for the allegations related to White and the UFC, the Court infers that Hunt relates his claim to the removal of his fight from UFC Fight Night 121 (“referred to as UFC 121 in the order”) after he wrote an article claiming to suffer from slurred speech and other maladies he attributes to fighting.  The Court found fatal defects in the pleading as this was the portion of his claim in his Supplemental Complaint.  But he did not provide sufficient notice to the defendants.  Nevertheless, the Court dismissed the claim as it believed that the costs he attributed to training camp as not financial losses that do not constitute damage to “tangible property” under the RICO statute.

The lack of proximate cause also proved fatal for Hunt’s claims against White for alleged “aiding and abetting” and common law fraud.  Here again the Court refers to the lack of evidence linking White’s representations including the claim Lesnar was being tested by USADA with the alleged doping scheme.

The Court also dismissed Hunt’s breach of contract claim because he was paid for his fight against Lesnar at UFC 200.  In addition, the Court states that since Hunt’s damages relate to items that occurred after his loss, and not his contracted pay, the claim must be dismissed.

The Court determined that Hunt’s unjust enrichment claim must also fail because it stems from his contract with the UFC.  He received what he was owed in the contract and there is no compensation for Hunt’s perception that his services exceeded the scope of the contract.

Hunt’s battery and aiding and abetting claims fail because he consented to the fight with Lesnar.  Moreover, there was no evidence that Lesnar did anything outside “the range of the ordinary activity,” in an MMA bout.  The Court cites to a California case in which a pitcher intentionally threw a pitch at a batter’s head which injured the batter.  The Court sided with the pitcher stating that while throwing at a batter’s head is “forbidden by the rules of baseball,” it “is an inherent risk of baseball.”  By analogy, the Court states that even though Lesnar tested positive for a performance enhancing drug, there was no evidence submitted which revealed that he did something outside the scope of an MMA bout.  Thus, there is no battery claim against Lesnar.

Finally, the civil conspiracy claims must fail because the Court dismissed Hunt’s fraud and battery claims.  Since the underlying claims were dismissed, there cannot be a conspiracy claim.

The Court also authorized the remaining parties (i.e., UFC and Hunt) to attend a settlement conference.  In all likelihood, the parties will settle.

Payout Perspective:

In all likelihood, this case will be over after the settlement conference.  Cases for breaches of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in contract have a low likelihood of victory for the plaintiff.  Based on the Court’s opinion which dismissed Hunt’s case for lack of proximate cause to his claims, it would only be a matter of time before Hunt’s last claim is dismissed.  This is an unfortunate result for Hunt.  While it’s clear that the allegations were tied together by a thread, it’s clear that he was tired of being put in the Octagon with opponents that failed drug tests. While Hunt may have had several good points in his lawsuit, the Court did not find anything of legal substance to keep the case afloat.  MMA Payout will keep you posted if there would be an appeal.

Boxer Austin Trout appeals District Court ruling moving Ali Act claims to arbitration

February 14, 2019

Boxer Austin Trout has filed a Notice of Appeal of a District Court ruling which moved his case against the World Boxing Organization to arbitration.

Late last year, Trout brought a Motion for Reconsideration hoping that the Court would alter its decision which includes claims which violate the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.  Among the issues was Trout’s claim that the rankings system overlooked the boxer.

The case, which was sent to the District Court of Puerto Rico because of where the promotion was headquartered dismissed the case citing an arbitration agreement in the WBO’s contract.  Trout argued that the lawsuit should remain in court because the WBO waived its right to the arbitration.  It also claimed that the Ali Act violations should remain in litigation and could not be arbitrated as an arbitration would allow the WBO to be bot a party and judge.

However, the Court in a minute order, without even a formal opinion, dismissed Trout’s Motion for Reconsideration of the verdict.

Notice of Appeal by on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

This case is not as salacious as the UFC antitrust lawsuit but may have as important implications for boxing and the Muhammad Ali Act Boxing Reform Act.  If this case is allowed to proceed in arbitration, it will be precedent that promotions may use as a workaround the Ali Act.  If promotional contracts indicate that disputes must be decided via arbitration, it takes away the threat of possible litigation under the act.  Moreover, if the promotion can be the arbitrator of the matter, boxers will undoubtedly see that this is unfair.  For promoters, most contracts include arbitration clauses to negate the threat of big legal bills and potential jury verdicts.  If promotions see the Trout case as precedent to craft contracts to include arbitration clauses to litigate all claims including Ali Act claims, it circumvents the bite the Ali Act may have had.

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