August 29, 2015
Plaintiffs on behalf of the fighters in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit have filed a Motion for Protective Order as a result of what it claims to be an exclusion from discovery of one of its main attorneys.
As is the case in litigation where there are sensitive materials that will be shared by opposing sides via discovery, the court required the parties to work together to come up with a protective order which would serve as the guidelines for the exchange of information. A concern by plaintiffs is that Zuffa lawyers seek to exclude Rob Maysey, an attorney for Plaintiffs, from “highly confidential” information.
Via Plaintiffs’ Protective Order:
Zuffa has proposed an unusual special “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY” designation in the Protective Order that would apply to “extremely sensitive, highly confidential, non-public information, consisting either of trade secrets or other highly confidential information directly concerning business plans, strategies, revenues or costs, disclosure of which to another Party or Non Party would create a substantial risk of significant competitive or business injury to the Designating Party that could not be avoided by less restrictive means.” Zuffa [Proposed] Order ¶ 2.7.
The attached exhibits to the Motion for Protective Order include a back and forth exchange on discovery between the parties which cover such issues as retention of data and other pertinent eDiscovery information as to when Zuffa would provide its data and in what form. Most, if not all of this information will be provided electronically and uploaded in reviewable databases for attorneys to review.
As for the interesting stuff, Zuffa is proposing two tiers of confidential information. Essentially, Zuffa wants Maysey “firewalled” from the discovery deemed HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL. Plaintiffs argue that the definition proposed by Zuffa would preclude him from a broad swath of material. Plaintiffs claim that Maysey is central to the litigation and would impair his ability to assist his clients and prepare for trial. On the other end, Zuffa argues that Maysey is a “competitor” of the UFC according to its attorneys as he founded the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association. The claim is that Maysey should not be allowed to view contracts and sensitive business materials which Zuffa claims he might use for future prospective gain.
The argument is that Maysey and a partner at one of the other plaintiffs’ firms, Neal Tabachnik (who has represented MMA fighters in the past) should be precluded from HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL Information. Plaintiffs seek an order from the court which would preclude Zuffa’s argument that Maysey is precluded from seeing the HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL information.
Exhibit 1 (attached to Plaintiffs’ Motion) is a letter from Plaintiffs’ lawyers to Zuffa lawyers. Specifically, the argument points out the reasons why the confidential designations are overbroad and why Maysey should be allowed to view documents.
The full letter is below:
Exhibit 2 is a response from Zuffa lawyers to the above letter:
I could not highlight the pertinent sections in the letter from Zuffa’s attorneys but it essentially spells out its position by pointing to case law that dual tiers of confidentiality is not unusual and that Maysey’s involvement in MMAFA warrants that he is blocked from viewing HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL documents. It cites to the MMAFA web site and his own law firm bio as to reasons why he should be firewalled for viewing documents. Notably, Zuffa points to a 2009 MMA Payout article in which Maysey was interviewed by Robert Joyner.
Notably, Maysey filed a declaration with the Motion for Protective Order which mentions that he is the “principal client liaison” with the fighters in this litigation. However, what it does not say is that he is trial counsel for the lawsuit (i.e., he will be in court trying the case if it gets to that point). This could be a major distinction when arguing whether or not an attorney assisting in preparing the case is essential in the discovery process. Moreover, Maysey states in the declaration that he founded MMAFA but does not own or “head” the MMAFA. Also, he does not profit from it. But, the issue that Zuffa will press is that he founded the organization and the web site maintains he is still a part of the organization.
This is a case of the internet coming back to bite back. Zuffa’s attorneys have done its due diligence in scouring the web for information on Maysey and MMAFA. One might see this as picking on someone that had attempted to help fighters seek out benefits. Its clear Maysey was emotional during the initial press conference announcing the lawsuit. We now see a strategy employed by Zuffa to block him out of the litigation. Coincidence or not, this is litigation and this is what happens.
Two tiers of confidentiality is not unusual in litigation especially when highly sensitive material such as trade secrets are involved. Zuffa’s arguments are valid but it will be how broad the definition of HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL is that the court will look at when deciding whether or not it would be valid to preclude Maysey from looking at documents. Certainly, one would think the court would have to balance its decision on the right for the plaintiffs’ attorney to communicate with his clients and prepare for trial. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
August 28, 2015
Dana White went on ESPN Friday night to announce that the Ronda Rousey-Holly Holm fight is being moved up and to another location. Rousey will now face Holm in Australia as part of UFC 193.
White appeared by phone on ESPN to make the announcement. It was later discovered that the original main event for that card Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit is now off due to an injury to Lawler.
The UFC plans to break an all-time attendance record for an MMA event in Melbourne. The event is taking place at Etihad Stadium. UFC 193 was awarded to Melbourne after a law restricting cage fighting was lifted earlier this year.
UFC 129 which drew over 55,000 fans and registered a gate of over $12 million is the current record for attendance and gate. This past January, the UFC drew 30,000 fans and a $3 million gate in Sweden for UFC on Fox 14.
Etihad Stadium has a capacity of over 55,000 although one might expect the UFC to boost the seating configuration so attendance would surpass UFC 129.
UFC 190 drew 900,000 on PPV based on Rousey and one might expect her to draw similar numbers.
White’s appearance Friday night seemed impromptu as he did not do a live remote but over the phone. Also, the timing of the event seems out of the ordinary as it was done 8:30pm PT/11:30 ET on Friday night. Usually, this type of announcement would occur during the week. Moreover, the original thought was that this news would trump the news earlier in the day that the organization had lifted the suspension of Travis Browne. However, it now looks like it was done to jump the news that Robbie Lawler was off the card. It will be the second straight title defense outside of the US for Rousey and she will look to produce another PPV hit.
August 28, 2015
The UFC announced that the investigation into allegations of domestic violence against Travis Browne is now complete. Investigators determined that there was inconclusive evidence to support claims of the alleged abuse claims by Browne’s wife.
Browne was held out of International Fight Week activities as a result of allegations from Jenna Renee Webb that the UFC heavyweight had caused her bodily harm. Webb posted pictures of her bruises she claimed were from Browne as a result of a February incident. Browne’s representatives claimed that the allegations were unfounded.
The UFC launched an investigation using a former FBI agent with more than 25 years’ experience. After a seven week investigation which included interviews “with multiple subjects associated with the principals, as well as the principals themselves.” Based on the wording, it sounds as though Browne and Webb were interviewed in the investigation.
PUBLIC SUMMARY RE: BROWNE INVESTIGATION
In an effort to provide the public with additional information regarding UFC’s investigation of allegations of domestic violence by Travis Browne, while honoring the competing interest of protecting the privacy rights of all the individuals who voluntarily cooperated in the investigation, UFC provides the following summary:
Upon learning of the posting of photographs on social media on or about July 8, 2015 by an individual reflecting bruises on their person and corresponding commentary that Travis Browne had committed the acts resulting in the bruising, UFC, through the Las Vegas-based law firm Campbell & Williams, began efforts to retain a third party to conduct a thorough, independent investigation into this matter. In mid-July, Campbell & Williams retained a private investigator with more than 25 years of experience as a Supervisory Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation operating out of the Los Angeles Field Office and as a Special Inspector General for the United States of America. The investigator has overseen countless investigations involving thousands of witnesses and subject interviews.
As part of his nearly two-month investigation into the Browne matter, the investigator and his colleagues interviewed nearly a dozen individuals located in several states. The interviewees included the principals of the investigation, former spouses, individuals with close personal relationships, and health-care professionals. Additionally, the investigator obtained various forms of electronic data reflecting interactions of the principals with each other and third parties. The investigation also included electronic and hand searches for relevant civil and criminal records, law enforcement service-call records, and the like.
Based on the abundant evidence gathered to date, the results of the investigation are inconclusive to support the claims of alleged domestic violence involving Browne. Similarly, the evidence was inconclusive to support a finding that Browne had violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy. The evidence gathered in the investigation has also been reviewed by Donald J. Campbell, Esq. of Campbell & Williams, a former state and federal prosecutor with extensive experience overseeing criminal investigations, who likewise concurs that the results of the investigation are inconclusive.
As a result of the investigation, Browne will be able to return to the octagon.
Not a surprise that this was released on Friday without much notice. The usual standard is that if you do not want to make a lot of news, you release news when most are not looking. Of course, that rule was somewhat broken tonight when Dana White went on ESPN to announce a new date and relocation for a Ronda Rousey fight.
Notably, the UFC press release states that there was inconclusive evidence that the he violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy. The evaluation of whether the fighter violated the conduct policy was not stated in the Anthony Johnson third-party investigation just a couple days ago. I’m sure many people will scrutinize the wording of the Browne release when the investigation found “inconclusive” evidence. Certainly one might speculate that there was some evidence found regarding the possibility of domestic violence but not enough (in the minds of the investigators) for a jury to find Browne guilty of a crime. Of course, there is news that Webb may now press charges which may change everything. But, if investigators had the opportunity to interview Webb and other witnesses that may have knowledge of the claims, it may feel like prosecutors would not pursue the case. MMA Payout will keep you posted.
August 28, 2015
Ronda Rousey has made her first commercial with her new sponsor, Carl’s Jr. The commercial is for the fast food chain’s Cinnamon Swirl French Toast breakfast sandwich.
Unlike previous Carl’s Jr. commercials which focused on selling sex, the commercial focuses on Ronda’s persona in the Octagon. It also includes her taking a big bite of the sandwich – a staple for Carl’s Jr. commercials.
The commercial should be the first of many for Rousey as the brand’s pitch woman. Based on the estimated PPV buy rate of UFC 190, Rousey’s brand is bigger than ever. The Carl’s Jr. sponsorship should expand her mainstream awareness going forward.
August 27, 2015
Dave Meltzer writing for MMA Fighting reports that UFC 190 featuring Ronda Rousey and Beth Correia drew an estimated 900,000 PPV buys. The number would make it the third PPV event this year to draw 800,000 buys.
UFC 189 featuring Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes drew 1 million buys according to UFC.com. Other estimates have the July 11 PPV less than 1 million. Regardless, it’s the second straight PPV that has done well based on just 1 fighter. UFC 189 it was all Conor McGregor and UFC 190 was all Ronda Rousey.
Perhaps supporting the contention that Ronda Rousey’s star is brighter than ever is that there were no noteworthy fights on the UFC 190 main card. Despite the fact the show went over 3 hours, there was nothing great on the card besides Rousey. There were two TUF Brazil final fights and Shogun Rua-Little Nog. In comparison, UFC 189 did have another title fight between Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler to entice fans to buy the PPV.
UFC 190 joins 189 and 182 as top events that have drawn 800,000 PPV buys or more. No PPV event went over 600,000 in 2014. In 2013, only 2 events (UFC 158 and UFC 168) went over 800,000 PPV buys.
Ronda Rousey PPVs (via MMA Payout Bluebook)
UFC 157 – vs. Liz Carmouche: 450,000
UFC 168 – vs. Miesha Tate (co-main): 1,025,000
UFC 170 – vs. Sara McMann: 350,000
UFC 175 – vs. Alexis Davis (co-main): 545,000
UFC 184 – vs. Cat Zingano: 600,000
UFC 190 – vs. Beth Correia: 900,000
Early indicators from most outlets reflected the fact that UFC 190 did well on PPV. The prelims drew 1.3M viewers and google searches topped 6 million. All of these indicators would point to the fact that Ronda Rousey is, arguably, the top draw in the UFC. The card had little to support her and she was able to garner 900,000 fans. The PPV buy rate also reflects the fact that her star is gaining steam. One might expect her to draw similar numbers when she faces Holly Holm at UFC 195.
August 27, 2015
Bellator lightweight Melvin Guillard had some interesting things to say about his previous employer in light of the Reebok apparel deal. Guillard, who was cut by the company, states that it will likely lose fighters due to the lost revenue by fighters from sponsors.
Guillard has not been with the company since his last fight in March 2104. However, he states in a recent MMA Fighting interview that some of the UFC fighters he trains with at American Top Team are “unhappy with how things went with the UFC.” Guillard stated that the “UFC is really just dropping the ball on a lot of guys. They’re going to lose a lot of talent.”
Prior to the UFC sponsor fee, Guillard stated that a fighter could make $50K to $60K per fight from sponsors. However, restrictions on sponsors which required they pay a fee to the UFC in order to sponsor a fighter curtailed many brands from sponsoring a fighter. The Reebok deal which went into effect this July, has received criticism from many fighters that have indicated it has cut their ability to earn money from sponsors. While some fighters have taken up the side of the UFC, there are many fighters that are put off by the new payouts from Reebok.
Guilard, who had a stint with WSOF, is now in Bellator and is set to fight this Friday for the organization at Bellator 141.
Guillard’s comments could be seen as a former fighter expressing his opinion after being let go by the UFC and thus feels free to say what he wants about the organization. Guillard’s comments about what his teammates are saying might be hearsay and might be a way that UFC contracted fighters are expressing their discontent with the new era of sponsorship revenue for fighters. Until there are actual numbers out there that he is making more money overall than he did when he was with the UFC, it’s hard to conclude that UFC fighters would jump ship to other organizations due to the Reebok deal.
August 26, 2015
The UFC announced a ‘Go Big’ Seasonal Campaign with a live launch event open to the public set for Friday, September 4th with many of the fighters featured this fall appearing.
The event will take place at the Grand Garden Arena and will be streamed on ufc.com. The event will be the pre-cursor for UFC 191 set for next Saturday.
Via UFC press release:
UFC champions Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier, Conor McGregor, Robbie Lawler, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Rafael Dos Anjos, as well as top contenders Alexander Gustafsson, Carlos Condit, Luke Rockhold, Donald Cerrone, Dan Henderson, Holly Holm and Vitor Belfort will be among the more than 20 fighters participating in the launch event.
It appears that the UFC will be branding its quarterly fights with slogans. At the beginning of the year, ‘The Time is Now’ was the campaign. It might have helped with the first three PPV cards of the year doing better than anticipated. With the quality of fights and number of events occurring in the last quarter of 2015, the UFC is taking the opportunity to rally its fans (and fighters) with a public event and perhaps gain some momentum for one of the weaker PPV cards of 2015.
August 25, 2015
Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night 74 airing on FS1 drew an average viewership of 796,000 according to Nielsen sources. The prelims which preceded the main card drew 542,000 viewers.
The peak during the main card occurred in the last quarter hour of the event 9:45-10pm when it drew 970,000 viewers. The main card for UFC Fight Night 74 went up against NFL Preseason Football on Fox and WWE’s Summerslam. The NFL game between the Titans and Rams drew 4.345 million viewers and scored the most in the adult 18-49 demo according to Deadline.com.
Yet, the Sunday night card fared well despite dropping in viewership from two Saturday ago. The Fight Night viewership average is at
872,000 952,000 viewers.
The prelims actually saw an increase from UFC Fight Night 73 drawing 542,000 viewers.
|UFC Fight Nights 2015|
|UFC Fight Night 59||2,751,000||908,000|
|UFC Fight Night 60||913,000||775,000|
|UFC Fight Night 61||1,200,000||813,000|
|UFC Fight Night 62||617,000||280,000|
|UFC Fight Night 63||389,000||304,000|
|UFC Fight Night 66||575,000||286,000|
|UFC Fight Night 67||813,000||713,000|
|UFC Fight Night 68||950,000||782,000|
|UFC Fight Night 70 (prelims on FS2)||909,000||223,000|
|UFC Fight Night 71||801,000||543,000|
|UFC Fight Night 72||508,000||292,000|
|UFC Fight Night 73||1,159,000||306,000|
|UFC Fight Night 74||796,000||542,000|
On a rather busy Sunday night, the UFC had a decent viewership and the prelim viewership actually increased compared to the last two UFC Fight Night cards. The main event was disappointing due to the injury to Oliveira. However, much of the rest of the fights on Sunday were entertaining.
August 25, 2015
MMA Fighting reports that Anthony Johnson has agreed to seek counseling and make a donation to a women’s charity after an incident with a woman at his gym. The UFC hired an outside law firm to investigate the incident after Johnson posted a rant on social media about the incident.
The UFC released a statement on Monday announcing Johnson’s agreed moves after the incident and investigation:
Following a thorough investigation by a third-party law firm, UFC® is extremely disappointed with Anthony Johnson’s recent actions, as the organization does not tolerate behavior of this nature from any athletes under contract with the UFC. Johnson personally apologized to the woman he verbally offended at a Florida gym last week and for the insensitive comments he made on social media afterwards. The woman accepted Johnson’s apology and indicated a desire to put this unfortunate matter behind them. In order to ensure these situations do not happen in the future, Johnson has agreed to participate in counseling and UFC will support him through this process. Johnson has also agreed to make a donation to a Florida-based women’s charity.
Johnson will remain on the UFC 191 card to face Jimi Manuwa.
The investigation was likely a result of Johnson’s prior history as it relates to women. A restraining ordered was issued against him by the mother of his children. However, that was subsequently dismissed.
A good result from the incident or putting a band-aid on a huge gash? What would have been an appropriate measure might have been to have Johnson pay for anger management counseling (because it appears that what he needs), make a donation to a women’s charity and pay for the woman’s gym fees for an entire year. Not to be cynical, but I would think that the latter penalty (paying for the gym fees) would have been the most immediate and appropriate result out of this whole debacle. It was clear that the UFC needed to resolve this matter prior to fight week as it would have been hanging over the promotion of a card that looks very soft on paper.
What I find interesting in the UFC statement is that there is no mention that the law firm investigating the incident or the UFC reviewed the UFC Code of Conduct for athletes and made a determination as to whether there was a violation. One might suggest that Johnson agreed to the counseling and donation in lieu of an actual determination of a violation. In that case, I would think it should still be mentioned. If no mention, it will not be in the mind of the fighters and/or their representatives. Moreover, it would not seem that there would be any repercussions from a violation of the code.
August 24, 2015
The Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an editorial in its Saturday’s edition entitled, “UFC should knock out phony Culinary organizing bid.” The editorial take shots at Culinary Local 226, a staunch opponent of the Fertitta brothers and the UFC as it criticizes the latest efforts by the union to assist unionizing UFC fighters.
The editorial lashes out against the union citing that it has failed to unionize the Fertitta-owned Station Casinos “because of hostility, harassment and bad-faith tactics.” It also describes a “political blockade in New York” which has prevented the legalization of MMA in New York.
The editorial is surprisingly devoid of valid, well-written, articulate and clear arguments articulating the point that the Culinary Union is bad and the Fertittas and the UFC are the victims. Instead, there are a lot of conclusions without evidence. To top it off, the editorial ends with the reference that the union should “tap out.” There is no real call to action or what will happen if the Culinary Union continues.
There are ways to use the media to get your point across. Obviously, the editorial is pro-UFC and anti-Culinary Union. Yet, it is so blatant and without reason that it just smacks of propaganda. Certainly, the UFC could have provided a far better article and/or placement than a hastily written editorial.