More documents from UFC antitrust hearing reveal Joe Silva’s negotiations

October 10, 2019

More documents were reveled recently in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit.  The documents reveal email communications between Joe Silva and managers regarding contract negotiations for fighters.  Overall, it would be hard to call it “negotiations” as the UFC flexed its leverage over fighters in making them capitulate.

In one exchange, Silva has a back and forth with the manager for Bang Ludwig when the current coach and former UFC fighter was coming up for new contract.

The crux of the negotiation was Ludwig’s manager attempting to get Silva to pay $18,000 to show and $18,000 to win.  At the time Ludwig was coming off of a split decision win in Germany.  Ludwig’s representative told Silva through email that he had spent out of pocket $4,000 for the fight in Germany.  In addition, he was experiencing monetary issues at the time.   Silva was dead set on $16,000 and $16,000.  He indicated that the win in Germany was a “gift” and that he could not reconcile paying Ludwig more than other similar situated fighters.

Ludwig’s manager had countered his $18,000 and $18,000 request with $17,000 and $17,000 but the email communication did not mean that Silva budged.  In fact, he did nothing but hold to his original offer.

In another email exchange with UFC fighter Ricardo Almeida, Ally Almeida, his wife acting as his manager attempted to negotiate the contract with Silva.

Silva offered a 6 fight deal with 2,000 incremental step-up in pay if he were to win starting at $20,000 and $20,000.  Almeida’s wife countered with $5,000 step-ups in pay if he won.  Also, she inquired about a shorter 3 fight deal.  Silva immediately nixed the conversation.  He indicated that he could only do a 6 fight deal because he wanted to ensure that they could properly build the fighter.  He did offer Almeida a $10,000 signing bonus. The below email highlights the offer.

Almeida decides to capitulate and accept the 6 fight deal.

Payout Perspective:

The email communications are helpful to see the type of negotiation going on with the company.  The fact is there was actual no negotiations going on as most were take it or leave it deals.  More of the emails submitted in discovery saw Silva providing fighters with new deals when going on the last fight of their contract.  These communications happened prior to a time when there were other options out there and fighters decided to fight out the terms of their contract.  Most of the examples offered by the Plaintiffs show that Silva would offer small raises with a $2,000 step in pay if the fighter won their fight.

The question for the case would be whether these instances showed anti-competitive conduct by a company with broad market power. Tough negotiating, or just not negotiating aren’t itself evidence of anti-competitive conduct, but it infers a course of conduct that Zuffa implemented which foreclosed competitive wages.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

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