U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware said that a group of martial arts fighters suing the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for alleged suppression of their wages can move forward as a class action suit. The decision was made in a Nevada court on Wednesday according to Reuters and damages sought range between $811 million and $1.6 billion.
The judge’s decision grants class-action status to more than 1,200 fighters who competed with the UFC, in the U.S., between December 2010 and June 2017.
The plaintiffs contend Nevada-based Zuffa, which does business as the UFC, abused its market power to acquire or block rival promoters and used exclusive contracts to keep fighters within the UFC. The plaintiffs alleged the UFC suppressed fighters’ bout compensation.
“The UFC pays its fighters only 20% of its event revenues, when boxing and other major sports pay well above 50%,” said Eric Cramer, chairman of Berger Montague, who is a lead attorney representing the class.
UFC lawyer William Isaacson of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison said Zuffa planned to challenge the certification order in an appeal. The UFC has denied any antitrust violations.
“This is just one step in a long legal process,” said Isaacson, who called the lawsuit “legally and factually meritless.”
The UFC touted what it called “a healthy and competitive MMA market which benefits athletes, promoters, and fans alike.”
In his 80-page order, Boulware said the plaintiffs had established that “members of the Bout class suffered economic injury as a result of defendant’s anti-competitive conduct.”
The court has not ruled on class certification in a separate lawsuit that involves fighters in bouts from mid-2017 to the present.
Boulware’s Wednesday ruling denied certification of a second class that would have been made up of every fighter whose identity the UFC used in licensing and promotional materials.
The court set a status conference for Aug. 21. No trial date has been set.
The case is Le v. Zuffa LLC, U.S. District Court for the District Of Nevada, No. 2:15-cv-01045.
For the class: Eric Cramer of Berger Montague; Benjamin Brown of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll; and Joseph Saveri of Joseph Saveri Law Firm
For Zuffa/UFC: William Isaacson of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
MyMMANews.com – We cover everything from MMA, BJJ, Bare Knuckle, Wrestling, Boxing, Kickboxing, and Judo