Boxer Austin Trout case moved to arbitration, casts concern on future of Ali Act

October 16, 2018

A Federal Court in Puerto Rico has dismissed boxer Austin Trout’s lawsuit against the World Boxing Organization for claims of violating the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act.  The court determined that due to the signed contact, Trout must submit to arbitration.

Austin Trout Case Order on … by on Scribd

Trout claimed that the WBO had dropped him from the promotion’s ranking arbitrarily which affected his ability to receive a title shot.

The lawsuit landed in Federal Court in Puerto Rico after the boxing promotion moved the case to Puerto Rico where its offices are located.  Originally Trout filed the lawsuit in state court in New Mexico.  The WBO moved the case to Federal Court in New Mexico and then requested the venue change to Puerto Rico which the Court granted.

The WBO claimed that Trout was bound by the terms of his WBO contract which required that he arbitrate any disputes he had with the contract.  According to the contract, the WBO would handle the arbitration and any appeal would be heard by a grievance committee put together by the promotion.

Trout argued that the lawsuit should remain in court for two reasons.  First, Trout’s attorneys argued that the WBO waived its right to arbitration as it already appeared in the case and filed procedural motions for the case to be moved to federal court and then to Puerto Rico.  Secondly, Trout argued that his claims were based upon violations of the Ali Act which should be litigated instead of arbitrated.  Furthermore, it argued that the arbitration clause was invalid because the WBO would effectively “be both a party and a judge.”

The WBO moved to compel arbitration and dismiss the lawsuit.  In siding with the WBO, the Court indicated that the WBO’s contract which included the arbitration clause was valid and related to the dispute alleged by Trout and therefore it was a valid arbitration clause.  Trout unsuccessfully argued that there was ambiguity in the contract and with contracts of adhesion, they should be found in favor of the non-drafting party.  Here, Trout argued that the arbitration clause related to disputes with third parties whereas disputes directly with the promotion could be litigated.  Part of this argument was due to the WBO serving as the arbitrator in the matter.  However, the court found no ambiguity and that the contract availed the parties to arbitration on all matters.

As to the argument that the lawsuit was litigated by the WBO and as a result, it had waived its right to arbitration, the court argued that the sole responses made by the promotion in court were procedural and not substantive.  Hence, it had not participated in litigation of the case and did not waive its right to an arbitration.

There is no indication that Trout will appeal this decision at this point.

Payout Perspective:

The underlying issue in this decision is that claims under the Muhammad Ali Act could be arbitrated based on a contract signed by the parties.  This does not bode well for the possibility of the Ali Act Expansion to combat sports.  The reason being is that if the party drafting the contract (e.g., Zuffa) includes a provision that all disputes under the contract shall be resolved via arbitration, it might mute the effectiveness of the Ali Act.  While arbitration is a faster way to resolve disputes, in the Trout case, he was concerned with the ability for the WBO to be judge and a party.  One might foresee an MMA promotion including in its contract its ability to choose an arbitrator.  We have already seen that the UFC Anti-Doping Policy has chosen its own vendor and arbitrator.  It would likely do the same for any case claiming a violation of the Ali Act.  Unless there is an appeal, look for this decision to rear its head in the future.

Eddie Alvarez signs with ONE Championship

October 15, 2018

ONE Championship has signed Eddie Alvarez to a contract making the former UFC and Bellator lightweight to the Asia-based company.  According to the promotion’s press release, it’s a multiple bout contract.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Payout Perspective:

The signing is a coup for ONE Championship who may seek to extend its reach to North America.  Thus far, the company has grown exponentially since its start in the early 2010s.  It has Ben Askren and former UFC star Brandon Vera on its roster as well as several top fighters in Asia.  Alvarez joining the promotion should bolster fans of Alvarez in the U.S. which may, in turn, mean a foray into North America.

At 34, its probably the best possible deal for Alvarez.  He’s nearing the end of his peak earning as an MMA fighter and ONE is likely paying him much more than the UFC or Bellator would offer.  This may serve as an option for other fighters that may be nearing the end of their deal in the UFC or Bellator that there are other options in the industry.

Tukhugov taken off UFC Fight Night 138 sparks Khabib to threaten to leave UFC

October 11, 2018

Khabib Nurmagomedov has given the UFC an ultimatum.  Keep his teammates in the UFC, or lose him.

The Eagle made this statement on Instagram after Saturday night’s post-fight brawl which included UFC featherweight Zubaira Tukhugov.  It was Tukhugov who threw a punch at Conor McGregor in the Octagon after Nurmagomedov left the cage to go after McGregor’s jiu jitsu coach Dilon Danis.

The Instagram statement was made once news that Tukhugov was removed from his fight against McGregor teammate Artem Lobov at UFC Fight Night 138 at the end of the month.  A replacement for Tukhugov is being sought although Lobov is lobbying Dana White to keep Tuhugov.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I would like to address @ufc Why didn’t you fire anyone when their team attacked the bus and injured a couple of people? They could have killed someone there, why no one says anything about insulting my homeland, religion, nation, family? Why do you have to punish my team, when both teams fought. If you say that I started it, then I do not agree, I finished what he had started. In any case, punish me, @zubairatukhugov has nothing to do with that. If you think that I’ll keep silent then you are mistaken. You canceled Zubaira’s fight and you want to dismiss him just because he hit Conor. But don’t forget that it was Conor who had hit my another Brother FIRST, just check the video. if you decide to fire him, you should know that you’ll lose me too. We never give up on our brothers in Russia and I will go to the end for my Brother. If you still decide to fire him, don’t forget to send me my broken contract, otherwise I’ll break it myself. And one more thing, you can keep my money that you are withholding. You are pretty busy with that, I hope it won’t get stuck in your throat. We have defended our honor and this is the most important thing. We intend to go to the end. #Brothers

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on

A day after meeting Vladimir Putin, Khabib told the Nevada Athletic Commission that they could keep his $2 million purse.

Khabib’s cites the lack of punishment given to McGregor for his attack on the bus he was in at the Barclay’s Center back in April.

Payout Perspective:

This was bound to happen.  The UFC did nothing to discipline McGregor citing his arrest by New York Police was good enough has now come back to haunt them.  Now, Khabib is using the lack of discipline in that case to save his teammate from expulsion from the promotion.  If that does not happen, he has threatened to leave.  This is a bad situation from the promotion as it now must decide how to deal with this situation.  It’s apparent that Khabib has some leverage in this situation as he likely has opportunities in Europe and Russia outside of the company.  Coming off the best PPV buy rate ever, the UFC will now have a slippery slope it must navigate as if they do nothing, it is even more precedent for athletes to get away without discipline.

UFC 229: Payout Perspective

October 9, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time it was one of the biggest events in company history with UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Khabib submits Conor, brawl ensues

You’ve likely read all about the post-fight brawl.  Despite MMA fan that like to downplay the incident, this was not how you showcase your product to the millions of fans that watched the fight.  Rather than be professional, both sides were not.  Conor’s antics prior to the night, and Khabib’s during it were both wrong.  It was a disgrace to the sport and overshadowed the dominant performance by Khabib.

At this point, the Nevada Athletic Commission will have to suspend and fine Khabib for some time to make it look like an authority.  With that being said, it’s clear that the UFC will take no action despite its ability to do something about it.  The UFC has maintained its alibi of hiding behind the regulation of a commission to do its bidding when it comes to these types of disciplinary issues.  It is clear that if they wanted, they could terminate Khabib’s contract.  Dana White stated that any fighter from Khabib’s corner would no longer fight in the UFC.  But what about Khabib?

Conor is to blame as well.  His antics have helped put him in the stratosphere of earners in combat sports and brought millions of dollars to Zuffa.  As a result, he’s been allowed to do anything without repercussions.

The whole scenario points to a suspension for Khabib and being stripped of his lightweight title.  We should have Conor face Tony Ferguson for the title and/or Diaz/Poirier winner facing Ferguson with the loser facing Conor.

Ferguson returns to stop Showtime

Tony Ferguson stopped Anthony Pettis in a blood-splattering fight that showed El Cucuy is back.  Both fighters had their moments and the movements in the fight were out of the ordinary and extraordinary.  Ferguson used a somersault to get out of the way of Pettis and Showtime used capoeira moves in attacking and defending.  Pettis was sliced by one of Ferguson’s strikes and was bleeding like a pro wrestler.  He did damage Ferguson as well.  In the end it was the relentless Ferguson that earned the victory as Pettis could not continue due to a broken hand.

Attendance, Gate and Bonuses

The event set a record for an MMA event in Nevada with 20,034 for a gate of $17.2 million.  It eclipsed UFC 200 held at the same venue.  The gate for UFC 229 fell short of the company record of $17.7 million for the UFC’s debut at MSG at UFC 205.

According to SeatGeek, a standing room only seat for UFC 229 went for over $400, with the get-in price at $1,234.  Again, it was second to only UFC 205’s get in price.

The bonuses went to Ferguson and Pettis for Fight of the Night, Derrick Lewis and Aspen Ladd for Performances of the Night.  Each drew the standard $50,000 bonus.

Payouts

The payouts were highlighted by Conor McGregor’s $3 million purse followed by Khabib’s $2 million.  But, the NAC has held up Khabib’s payout pending an investigation in the post-fight brawl.  While it has issued the check to McGregor, it’s held Khabib’s pay pending an investigation

The rest of the payouts can be found here.

Promotion of the Fight

Conor McGregor did not do a “world tour” for this fight which would have probably brought even more interest to the event.  He did promote when needed such as their first press conference.

The press conference which was held between Conor-Khabib prior to fight week was done without an audience but was shown in Times Square.  It was also on ESPN which had to use its censor liberally due to all of the profanity.  Conor’s late arrivals at the presser and ceremonial weigh-ins really put stress on the networks to deal with stretching out the time.  With more losses, networks will get tired of this habit.

ESPN did air the UFC Countdown show on its network in addition to it airing on FS1.

Dana White appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to promote the fight.  Conor McGregor made an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show and shared Proper 12 with his Irish counterpart.

In addition, there were multiple radio ads in addition to the television commercials.  Most of which highlighted the infamous Brooklyn bus attack.

Sponsorships

There were some new sponsors for this event including Conor McGregor’s Proper 12 Irish Whiskey and San Manuel Casino.  The latter sponsor is based out of Highland, California and was shown during the ceremonial weigh-ins.

One of the newest UFC sponsors, Portable Protein Pack aka P3, appeared on the front paneling of the UFC/Reebok shorts.  We may see more of this with existing official sponsors having secondary opportunities on fight gear.

In addition, Air Asia made a significant splash in its sponsorship activation which included stewardesses on stage with UFC Octagon girls during the ceremonial weigh-ins and with signage in the red corner of the Octagon to match the company’s branded color.

It was reported by Ariel Helwani that Conor McGregor signed a lucrative deal with Monster Energy which was said to be in the millions.

EA announced a new edition of its UFC3 video game featuring Conor McGregor.  EA conducted a fight simulation in which Conor McGregor KO’d Khabib in the 3rd round.

In the octagon, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Bud Light, Nemiroff, Motel6, MetroPCS, P3, CircleK, Modelo, Air Asia, UFC3’s Notorious Edition, Autozone and the return of the Walking Dead and Monster Energy held the center. It was clear that there were more sponsors than ever before within the Octano on its corners and canvas.  Harley Davidson had the fighter prep point.

Ratings

The UFC Prelims on FS1 drew 1.3M viewers on Saturday.  The prefight telecast on FS1 drew 373,000 viewers.  The prefight show matched the one from UFC 223.  The 222-prefight show was the highest-rated this year with 431,000.

Odds and Ends

I wrote about the UFC brawl in depth and how the promotion of the fight allowed for this to happen.  The UFC faces a lot of fallout (good and bad) from the event.  Khabib and Conor are facing NAC sanctions for their actions and at least two fighters from Khabib’s team will likely be expelled from the UFC and from fighting in Nevada.  For a promotion that is looking to grow the sport and find blue-chip sponsors, one has to ask whether UFC 229’s brawl was good or ad for business.

Conor went after Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, a controversial MMA manager that has been linked to terrorist groups if you believe McGregor and some journalists writing on the subject.  Despite these alleged ties, it seems that a majority of MMA fighters trust Abdelaziz with their career.  During the fight, Abdelaziz and members from both camps stayed in the back as the UFC tried to prevent what happened Saturday from happening.

The internet searches for this event were huge.  On Friday, UFC 229 drew over 2M google searches.  McGregor-Khabib drew over 2M searches as well.

Conor McGregor drew over 5M google searches on Saturday.  Derrick Lewis drew over 200,000 and Michelle Waterson drew over 100,000 searches.  “McGregor Fight” drew over 1 million google searches on Sunday.

Derrick Lewis’ post-fight interview was an all-time classic and was one of the reasons he drew as many google searches.  He took off his pants, said Donald Trump called him and told him to be Alexander Volkov.

Khabib appeared at the post-fight press conference and indicated he received congratulations from Vladimir Putin.

Matt Damon turned down the opportunity to be on Saturday Night Live to go to UFC 229.  There were many other celebrities drawn to this event as well and the aftermath had everyone on social media talking about it.

Internal numbers for Internet purchases of the event were up over 60% from Mayweather-McGregor according to Dave Meltzer.  This would be an indicator (although maybe not the strongest) the buy rate surged past the record of 1.6M PPV buys.  White indicated that it did not reach 3 million but was over 2 million.

The UFC received a ton of mainstream coverage due to post-fight brawl.  But, does this tarnish their image or encourage the promotion to try more of this?

Conclusion

Dana White touted that based on the viewership of Embedded episodes and YouTubes views compared with McGregor-Mayweather, the PPV would break the UFC record and it appears he will be right.  Despite the lack of expanded promotion of the event, its clear that the UFC hit all of the trigger points to garner the casual fans to buy the event.  The controversy is whether it was right to include footage of the bus attack or allow McGregor to continue personal attacks on Khabib’s religion, family and friends.  But, the PPV buy rate will likely go over 2 million (say 2.2 million) buys and show that marketing the bus attack footage helped more than it hurt.  There will be a rematch and you can believe that they will show the post-fight melee.

Factual misstatements, omissions cited by Smith in dismissal letter as she appeals NLRB decision

October 8, 2018

MMA Junkie reports that Leslie Smith will file an appeal of her dismissal of her NLRB labor complaint.

In a two-page decision dated September 18, 2018, the NLRB cited that after an investigation Smith’s complaint lacks merit.  “[t]here is insufficient evidence to establish that the UFC’s failure to renew her contract in April 2018 was based on any protected activities.”

The letter from Region 4 regional director Dennis P. Walsh notes that the “UFC’s failure to renew a contract and continue to negotiate with Smith” was not clear as to if it was an adverse employment action.  Essentially, the decision did not see evidence that re-signing Smith to a new contract was an adverse employment action.  The UFC’s unwillingness to make a counteroffer to Smith’s contractual demands was not evidence of an adverse employment action.

The decision cites three times that the UFC’s conduct actually benefited Smith.  They cite the UFC allowing Smith to remain in the promotion in 2017 after refusing to accept two fights.  Despite her refusal, her contract was extended twice.  The UFC approved Smith’s request to wear a Project Spearhead mouth guard for her April 21st fight despite the ban on third-party logos due to the Reebok deal.  Finally, the NLRB cites the UFC granting Smith $500 for travel expenses related to her April 21st fight.

Lucas Middlebrook, the attorney for Smith, has filed an appeal to the decision and requested two NLRB officials to be recused from the appeal as well as requesting that the same investigator that originally found merit in Smith case review the appeal. He accuses the UFC of using political ties to have the complaint sent to D.C. for additional review.

Smith argues that there were several factual misstatements in the dismissal letter including the allegation that she would not fight unless the UFC gave her additional money and added two fights to her expiring contract.  She also argues that the Bout Agreement obliges the UFC to reschedule the bout or terminate the existing Bout Agreement.  Since the fight was not rescheduled and the bout agreement was terminated, Smith argues that she should have had one more fight left on her contract. Based on this interpretation, the dismissal letter claims that her contract had ended but that would not be the case.

She also noted omissions in the dismissal letter decision including her No. 9 ranking in the UFC and having won 3 of her past 4 fights with the only loss coming outside of her weight division.  She also indicated that the $500 provided to her for travel was related to per diems unpaid by the UFC which included costs for checked luggage.

Payout Perspective:

This will be an appeal to watch considering the allegations and the belief that politics are involved in this.  Dana White and the UFC are friendly with the current administration.  In fact, UFC Fight Pass will be airing a special about Trump and his ties to MMA.  But, will the NLRB listen to the merits of this appeal and overturn the dismissal?  The most compelling argument for Smith is the bout agreement which requires either a reschedule of the bout or cancellation of the bout.  With a cancellation Smith would have been allowed one more fight on the contract.  If not, there is a possible claim for breach.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Chickens came home to roost at UFC 229

October 6, 2018

Tonight’s UFC 229 was marred by a melee after Khabib Nurmogomedov defeated Conor McGregor in the main event.  Khabib went after Conor’s corner, namely Dilon Danis, and chaos ensued.

A member of Khabib’s corner climbed the cage and took a shot at Conor.  During the post-fight show on  FS1 Dana White stated that 3 of Khabib’s cornermen were arrested.  At the post-fight press conference, White indicated that Conor did not want to press charges.  So they are likely to go free.  In all likelihood, Khabib will be facing a suspension and fine for his actions.  White also said that Conor McGregor was paid for tonight’s fight but the commission was withholding Khabib Nurmogomedov (per Brett Okamoto at ESPN).  Khabib was supposed to earn $2 million for his fight tonight.

This was my initial reaction and still maintain this feeling:

The UFC used the footage of McGregor hurling a dolly at the bus Khabib Nurmogomedov was on to promote this fight.  McGregor was arrested for the attack.

MMA Fighting’s Marc Raimondi asked White about this during the press conference lead-up.  White unequivocally stated that the bus attack at Barclay’s was part of the story.  While it may have been a part of the feud, it seemed questionable to use a criminal act to promote the fight.  The two men and their respective camps hated each other.

Moreover, McGregor’s antics and his personal attacks at Khabib fueled the fire between the two.  After Khabib defeated Conor, he spat on him and went right after his corner.  It was a great event that may have surpassed over 1 million PPV buys but how many of those casual viewers will return to see this chaos.

MMA will survive this incident as NBA survived Malice at the Palace but the promotion of the event seemed to cross the line between the two men.

The promoter decides on how to promote the fight.  White did not have to showcase the bus attack in the hype videos.  There was enough bad blood between the two men and camps to put together something fans would want to buy.

White expressed disgust by the act of Khabib the same way he did the day McGregor threw that dolly.  But, one has to assume that his dismay will be relieved once he sees the buy rate for this event.  The fact is he had the control to steer the promotion of the fight and could have done something.  While White had ordered extra security, they did not come through at the critical moment.

And while White’s concern about the aftermath of this debacle will be a headache, the remedy will be the fact that this feud is far from over.  Despite the stating the correct things by saying he didn’t want this to happen, monetizing tonight’s event will be easy for 2019.

But for now, the chickens have come home to roost for the UFC.

Cody Rhodes and the art of the promo

October 5, 2018

New Japan Pro Wrestling ran its third show in Southern California – Fighting Spirit Unleashed this past Sunday at The Pyramid in Long Beach, California.  It was an underrated card with some great talent and I was able to check out one of the best promos in the business as Cody Rhodes became a double champ.

The first match of the night featured two “young boys.”  A young boy is a young pro-wrestler still in the training stages of their career.  You might see these young boys act as ringside attendants in other matches to help veteran pro-wrestlers.  This match featured Clark Connors and Alex Coughlin.  Coughlin was a former WWE Tough Enough contestant and has wrestled on the indies.  Connors was trained by Lance Storm and wrestled in the Pacific Northwest.  Notably, I saw him wrestle for Washington state based promotion, Defy Wrestling.  New Japan opened up a Los Angeles-based dojo to train here in the states and these two are a part of the school.

Both Connors and Coughlin were indistinguishable in black trunks, black boots and no knee pads.  Both fighters ran to the ring and bowed to the crowd.  The match was devoid of any fancy moves or fanfare.  But, it was a solid performance focusing on the basics and strong style.  Connors won via Boston crab-type submission where he bridged over to obtain more leverage.

My favorite match of the night was Marty Scurll versus Will Ospreay.  It was a fast-pace back and forth match with both wrestlers working really hard.  Ospreay is one of the truly special guys in pro wrestling.  There are things he can do that no other wrestlers can.  Scurll plays up to his nickname, “The Villain.”  In the post-match press conference, he railed on the media calling them losers.  Perfect.

Then, there was the hometown favorite Young Bucks taking on the Tongans in a battle for the Bucks’ tag team titles.  The story of the match was the back of Matt Jackson.  I am not one to know how much Matt was selling the injury and how much was legit, but Nick had to do much of the load.  This was one of the best matches from Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.  They came off as great heels and the crowd just hated them.

The main event saw The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi) take on Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii.  Most of the match saw the tease between Omega and Okada as it was the first time since one of the best matches fans have seen this past summer.  It was a definite strong style match with Ishii giving and taking some very stiff shots.  In the end the Omega and Ibushi double knee “V-trigger” to Ishii won it for the Lovers.

One of the best promos of the night came after Cody won the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship over Juice Robinson.  After an unsatisfying stint in NXT as CJ Parker, Robinson left for New Japan where he has reinvented himself.  He has been on a roll as of late in New Japan and had won the belt in San Francisco at the G1 Special in July.

Unlike other wrestling promotions, New Japan Wrestling conducts post-fight interviews just like most other sports.  This is a great opportunity for the wrestlers to get reps to respond to reporter questions.  It’s also a way for the wrestlers (in character) to move forward their storylines and establish new ones.

Despite enjoying his time in the WWE, he laid into the company and Juice.  He talked about heritage, “Juice Robinson is one of what the NXT people said he was one of ‘Dusty’s Kids.’ Guess what, I’m his actual God damn kid!” He then exclaimed, “if you didn’t think it was personal, its very personal.”  The promo exemplifies Rhodes’ mastery of the mic and an audience.  Without concern for promoter or promotion, Rhodes rules his own world of wrestling and has attracted many searching for alternative options for pro wrestling.

His years of learning to cut a promo have helped him outside of the company in attracting fans.  The delivery is deliberate when it needs to be and he’s ready to adapt to any situation.  In fact, he called out several reporters when he asked them questions and complemented one who exuded passion for the sport.  He touted his championships and his success in the industry.  And, he’s not afraid to let people know it.  Cody has been able to create his own persona while reminding opponents and fans that the Rhodes name is royalty in the sport.

Since leaving the WWE, Cody has remastered his legacy and instead of being relegated to the mid-card and relative stability of WWE, he opted to go outside of the company on his own.  He’s linked up with the Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Marty Scurll in creating a buzz with The Bullet Club.  Coming off of All In, his brand is at a high and concern about going back to Uncle Vince is always a worry.  He did talk a bit about this in his post-match press conference.  While he has used the WWE as a heel straw man in most of his setups, he admitted that he had a good time with the company.  He also didn’t rule out going back.  A concern for many non-WWE wrestling fans as the Bucks and Rhodes cite January 1, 2019 as the end of their current contracts.

With that being said, Rhodes is enjoying the freedom of being his own boss.  He talked about not being concerned about any of the promoters he worked for in New Japan, Ring of Honor or the NWA.  That’s why it doesn’t appear that Cody will be going anywhere.  Its always hard to do it yourself but its clear that Cody is happy where he’s at and how he’s done it.  While I wouldn’t rule out a return to the WWE (Royal Rumble surprise anyone), he’s become a much bigger star than he’d ever would have been in the WWE.

If you didn’t watch Fighting Spirit Unleashed, you can catch it Friday night on AXS TV.

Court in UFC Antitrust Lawsuit denies Motion to Exclude Plaintiffs’ Experts

October 3, 2018

Late last week, the Court in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit denied Zuffa’s Motion to Exclude the Testimony of Guy Davis, Dr. Andrew Zimbalist and Dr. Hal Singer.

The Motions to Exclude were filed back in February.

The Court issued a minute order without further explanation:

Upon review of the record, the Court denies without prejudice the [517] Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Guy Davis, the [522] Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Dr. Andrew Zimbalist and the [524] Motion to Exclude Testimony of Dr. Hal Singer, as premature. The Court will consider the arguments in the Motions and Responses in its review of the [518] Motion to Certify Class, however, the Court is not required to determine the admissibility of evidence in ruling on the [518] Motion to Certify Class nor does such evidence have to be admissible for consideration by the Court. See Sali v. Corona Reg’l Med. Ctr., 889 F.3d 623, 631-32 (9th Cir. 2018).

Payout Perspective:

It would appear that the Court is pushing back its ultimate decision on the testimony of Plaintiffs’ expert when it decides the Motion for Class Cert.  If it had excluded the testimony, it would have crippled the case for Plaintiffs as they would be left without expert testimony.   Or, there would have been an appeal.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Details of Lorenzo Fertitta deposition in Zuffa Antitrust Lawsuit

September 28, 2018

The deposition of Lorenzo Fertitta was included in Plaintiffs’ Opposition Brief to Zuffa’s Motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit.  In contrast to the deposition of Dana White, Fertitta’s disclosed testimony offers a sobering recount of his old business.

Fertitta discussed the acquisition of the WEC:

Fertitta explains that he didn’t believe that the WEC was a competitor but a regional promotion that featured lighter weight divisions.  The testimony infers that Fertitta did not believe that the UFC was obtaining a rival but adding on to its offering by accessing lighter weight divisions.

Fertitta was asked about the Ali Act and the reasons why boxing adopted the legislation.  When asked about the glut of titles, he indicated that he was not concerned with the commissions regulating the sport but the consumer confusion with so many titles.  This infers the mindset Fertitta had with the business.  Rather than be concerned with any administrative issues, he was more concerned about the business side of the titles.

The attorney deposing Fertitta walked him through a text he received from Dana White regarding the negotiations they had with Gilbert Melendez.  You may recall these were contentious as Melendez was a contender in the lightweight division and the UFC had to match the rights offered by Bellator.

The pertinent section which is intriguing is a part of the text from White:

“….cut throat nasty business like you see in movies.  Good s—t homie.  Congrats.”

We are offered a bit of the text but the response from Fertitta is redacted.  After it was read, there was a break.

It would have been interesting to see the response from Fertitta.  Based on White’s text, we can infer whatever maneuvering executed by Fertitta worked.

Depo of Lorenzo Fertitta by on Scribd

Payout Perspective:

In contrast to Dana White’s deposition where he indicated he was a “genius,” Fertitta’s deposition seems mundane.  There is not a whole lot we can gather from the testimony that is not redacted.  From the information available, it does not look like Fertitta lost his cool or went off script.  He would make a good witness on behalf of Zuffa.  Fertitta’s dealings don’t address much of the detailed day-to-day work as White but it offers some information on behind the scenes of the company.

NLRB dismisses Leslie Smith’s claims against Zuffa

September 26, 2018

MMA Junkie’s Steven Marrocco first reported that former UFC fighter Leslie Smith had her NLRB complaint against Zuffa dismissed last week per Smith’s attorney Lucas Middlebrook.

Per a report from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Middelbrook plans to appeal.

Smith filed the charging letter in May of this year based on unfair labor practices against the UFC.

Leslie Smith Charging Letter by on Scribd

In June, the NLRB Investigation on Zuffa determine that the charging letter had merit and would file a complaint against Zuffa in Federal District Court.  The NLRB could have filed an injunction against Zuffa which would have prohibited the company from designating its contracted athletes as independent contractors and make them statutory employees.

Post-decision, NLRB Region 4 where the charging letter was filed, was instructed to send the case to D.C. for review.  Smith’s attorney believed that this was politically motivated.

Payout Perspective:

This is a stunning turn of events for the NLRB to dismiss the matter after there appeared to be merit to Smith’s claims.  MMA Payout has made a FOIA request on the charging to determine if there is any explanation for the dismissal.  The case had been dormant since being sent to D.C. and one can only wonder what went on during this process.

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