The Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association, led by lawyer Robert Maysey, has been working for almost a decade to provide a unified voice to seek reforms to benefit professional fighters.

I have been advised that yesterday, at the annual Association of Boxing Commissions meeting in San Diego, it was announced that the MMAFA has now obtained the backing of the Teamsters Union.

John Nash of BloodyElbow suggested the support will include efforts to expand the Muhammad Ali Act to include MMA fighters, a change that would disrupt current business practices in professional MMA.

John Nash Tweet re Teamsters

I have reached out to the MMAFA and the Teamsters for any official comment about the details of their affiliation.  While the extent of this relationship has yet to be clarified Maysey published the following statement about the MMAFA’s reasons behind asking the Ali Act to be expanded to MMA –

A more expanded version of my remarks made at the Annual Convention of the Association of Boxing Commissions in San Diego:

In July 2009, CSAC sent a letter to Mixed Martial Artists stating that federal law required all fighters to obtain a national ID card. The application to obtain the National ID card is virtually identical to the boxing counterpart, with two key exceptions:

1. The MMA application does not contain an equivalent bill of rights that boxers receive, and
2. The MMA application deletes the medical disclosures required to be given to boxers.

Of course, the commissions are not enforcing the Ali Act to MMA, and no federal law is being applied to MMA. That federal law, of course, is the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000.

FINDINGS OF FACT APPLICABLE TO THE ALI ACT (Modified to replace boxing with MMA as appropriate and not complete list for brevity):

State athletic commissions do not currently receive adequate information to determine whether boxers competing in their jurisdiction are being subjected to contract terms and business practices which may violate State regulations, or are onerous and confiscatory.

A recent example of this lack of adequate information occurred in an arbitation presided over by Commissioner Andy Foster. One of the parties to the arbitration sought to ask questions in regards to a promotional agreement which they believed were very pertinent to their case. Commissioner Foster, however, ruled that the Promotional Agreement was not before the commission as it was not submitted by the promoter, and that it would not be admitted or read into evidence as the promoter deems the agreement “confidential.” How can the commission adequately regulate or arbitrate disputes when they do not even obtain copies of all agreements between the promoter and MMA fighter, as is required in boxing?

The sport has not established credible and objective criteria to rate/rank fighters.

In MMA, promoters have taken this a step further, contractually stating that titles are merely “ceremonial” and the athlete has no right to fight for or retain titles earned. How is this permitted by state governmental bodies sanctioning “title” fights to the consuming public?

Open competition in the professional MMA industry has been significantly interfered with by restrictive and anticompetitive business practices of certain promoters and sanctioning bodies, to the detriment of the athletes and the ticket-buying public. Common practices of promoters represent restraints of interstate trade in the United States.

Jon Fitch, Ben Askren, Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and many others provide numerous examples of restraints in place that harm fighters and the consuming public.

Each of these findings taken from the Ali Act apply with equal validity to MMA, as do the findings not included here.

To remedy these abuses, all of which are rampant in MMA, the Muhammad Ali Act Requires:

Objective Rankings Criteria based upon merit–not contractual subservience. Standardized, objective rankings serve to increase public confidence in the sport, and meansnew opportunities for honest fighters who are trying to fight their way up the rankings.” Additionally, the sport achieves “more integrity and respect” since boxing fans “will know that championship matches are being fought by true champions.

Protection from Coercive and Exploitive Contracts. The practice of requiring “options” stifles competition. As the legislative history of the Act declares, the “athletes would be better served, as would open competition in the sport, if fighters were free to contract with those promoters they personally choose, rather than being coerced to contract with a promoter who is in the position of barring a lucrative bout.”

Prohibition Against Conflicts of Interest. The Act also contains a provision which prohibits certain conflicts of interest.Specifically, the Act prohibits a manager from having a direct or indirect financial interest in a promotion, and prohibits a promoter from having financial interests in the management of a fighter. It “is not plausible for a boxer to receive proper representation and counsel from a manager if the manager is also on the payroll of a promoter. This is an obvious conflict of interest which works to the detriment of the fighter and the advantage of the promoter. Similar restrictions are in place prohibiting conflicts between managers and promoters and sanctioning bodies.

Required Disclosures to State Athletic Commissions. The Act also requires promoters to disclose all payments made to a fighter, whether by written or oral agreement. Specifically, the Act requires the promoter to provide (i) a copy of any agreement in writing to which the promoter and fighter are a party, and (ii) to provide a written statement under penalty of perjury that no other written or oral agreements exist between the promotion and fighter. No hidden agreements are permissible.

In combat sports with competition and free of restraint, as Carlos Newton states, promoters compete for fighters, and fighters compete for titles. When the promoter dictates who a fighter fights, when a fighter fights, where a fighter fights, what the fighter ranks and who obtains title status, and now, what sponsors are worn–no semblance of legitimate negotiating power remains between the promoter and fighter. The scales are tipped overwhelmingly towards the promoter.

Very recently, Commissioner Lueckenoff sent a letter to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for an investigation into the actions of a boxing promoter/advisor. This boxing entity was allegedly attempting to behave in the same manner as “Bellator or the UFC,” that is in the same manner as an MMA promoter behaves. If these actions are illegal for a boxing promoter to undertake–why are they also not illegal in MMA, when everyone in this room (ABC convention) knows these same abuses are rampant in mixed martial arts.

The Ali Act was brought in to protect boxers from these abuses, the Ali Act to MMA is what is needed to offer the same protections to mixed martial artists, and what fairness and consistency requires. Please, join us in seeking to have the Muhammad Ali Act applied to MMA. The athletes and fans of this sport deserve no less.

Thank you.

 

This week Zuffa, parent company of the UFC, has sued Wanderlei Silva alleging defamation and business disparagement.

In short, the lawsuit highlights a host of critical comments Silva made about the UFC and specifically points to comments of alleged fixed fights as crossing the line.

The full claim can be found here – Zuffa Lawsuit Wanderlei Silva Defamation

The lawsuit notes “Silva has repeatedly stated that the UFC and its senior management have engaged in “fight fixing” and that he can “prove this allegation”. Fight fixing (also known as match fixing) is the action or practice of dishonestly determining the outcome of a contest before it occurs.  Fight-fixing is against the law and often associated with criminal activity such as illegal gambling“.

There can be little dispute that allegations of fight fixing leveled against a licensed promoter, if untrue, will meet the legal definition of defamation.  The case will ultimately turn on whether there is any merit to Silva’s troublesome allegations.

Earlier this year when the above video of what appeared to be a significant mismatch at the XPlode Fight Series made the rounds on the internet Suzanne Davis (whom I only have the pleasure of knowing via her twitter handle @SoozieCuzie) decided to do some digging into the quality of matchmaking of this MMA organization.

Today Davis published the raw data she compiled after weeks of work which can be found here.  She further published an analysis of the raw numbers which led to the following troublesome conclusion:

The average Winner’s record was 5.88 wins, 2.50 losses. The average  Loser’s record was 1.22 wins, 4.07 losses. The average Both-ers record was pretty even at 5.79 wins, 5.75 losses.
Going into this project, I thought the major contributing factor would be the disparity in fight experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a massive difference, but the numbers that stood out the most to me were the win/loss percentages. The Winner’s win percentage is obviously quite high, the Loser’s loss percentage is obviously quite high and, conveniently, the percentage for  Both-ers  is virtually identical. Yes, I should have been able to predict the win/loss percent based on everything above, but seeing it was so much more impactful…

At best, the events that Xplode Fight Series promotes are nearly farcical and all-but-pre-scripted. (Even that is up for debate.) At worse, they’re negligent and dangerous. Yes, yes…the old adage of ”they know what could happen when they signed up for it” applies. Still, promoters and commissions are responsible for the safety those same fighters disregard.

The sport we watch finds ways to mix brutality and beauty and blood. It also mixes heart, strategy, and determination. I’d like to see them come out of the cage (or ring) as close as possible to the same way they went in.

Matchmaking in MMA is critical.  It does not take deep analysis to appreciate the need for a relatively even playing field in a potentially dangerous sport.  Davis’ efforts should be applauded and I encourage those interested in the integrity of the sport to review her study in full.  Promoters, matchmakers and Athletic Commissions would be wise to take competitor safety seriously and take reasonable steps to ensure fair competition in combative sports.

Today a Federal Court Judge in Nevada dismissed Zuffa’s attempts to delay their discovery obligations in the multiple anti trust lawsuits facing the MMA industry leading UFC.  Zuffa was hoping to stall their obligations until their motion to dismiss the lawsuit is heard but the Court refused to do so.

With Zuffa being forced to open their books, at least somewhat at this stage, the merits of the lawsuits will become clearer for the Plaintiffs in the upcoming weeks.

Today’s ruling, however, was not a one sided victory.  The Court refused to outright delay Zuffa’s discovery obligations but at the same time the court ‘imposed restrictions‘ on the Plaintiffs broad discovery requests which will be in place at least until the Court has a chance to rule on Zuffa’s motion to dismiss the claims.  Those hoping this lawsuit will bring Zuffa’s financials into the public eye will have to wait longer as the parties were ordered to “submit a proposed form of Confidentiality and Protective Order“.

As BloodyElbow’s John Nash previously reported, the Plaintiffs’ discovery requests are far reaching and include the following which Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen asked Plaintiffs’ counsel to ‘reconsider’

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 11

Documents and data in as granular form as it is maintained, including by transaction or receipt, sufficient to show the following:

a. total gate receipts from bouts, broken down by event;

b. total merchandizing receipts from bouts, broken down by event and itemized
by revenue source and line item;

c. total revenues from PPV broadcasts of bouts, broken down by event and
itemized by revenue source and line item;

d. total revenues from non-PPV broadcasts of bouts, broken down by event and
itemized by revenue source and line item;

e. total revenues derived from the sale of advertising during all broadcasts of bouts, whether PPV or non-PPV, during the Relevant Time Period, broken down by event, month and year and itemized by revenue source and line item;

f. total revenues derived in any way from the Promotional and Ancillary Rights relating to each MMA Fighter during the Relevant Time Period, broken down by Fighter, month and year and itemized by revenue source and line item;

g. total revenues derived in any way from the Merchandise Rights, including licensing revenues, relating to each MMA Fighter at any time during the Relevant Time Period, broken down by Fighter, month and year and itemized by revenue source and line item;

h. total annual revenues derived from agreements with sponsors, and to the extent known, from agreements between MMA Fighters and sponsors, itemized by revenue source and line item;

i. total revenues derived from UFC Licensed Merchandise;

j. total revenues derived in any way from UFC Promotional Materials;

k. total revenues broken down by event;

l. total revenues derived by You from any companies in the MMA Industry,
broken down by company and transaction or line item;

m. for each event or bout, the gross and net price paid by customers for
transactions by unit, subscription, and/or ticket for a single Pay-Per-View,
ticket to a live event, or UFC Fight Pass subscription.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 14

Documents sufficient to show Your actual costs, in as granular form as the information is maintained, but at all events on a monthly basis, including without limitation:

a.Your actual costs for presenting UFC bouts, in as granular form as possible, including without limitation venue costs, promotional costs, travel costs, advertising costs, compensation for Fighters, insurance costs, and all other costs incidental to presenting and promoting bouts;

b. Your actual costs involved in promoting the UFC as a brand, including advertisingexpenses; development of UFC trademarks and logos; and legal fees expended inprotecting the UFC’s purported intellectual property rights;

c. Your actual costs involved in developing and promoting merchandising of UFCLicensed Merchandise based on the Identities of the UFC Fighters; d. all other costs in an itemized fashion.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 22

All Documents referencing or relating to the drafting or editing of, justifications for, and the reasoning behind, the following provisions in Your contracts and agreements with any MMA Fighters, including, without limitation, Promotional and Ancillary Rights Agreements, Merchandise Rights Agreements, “side letters” and/or letter agreements:

a. any clauses providing for exclusivity or an exclusive relationship with the UFC of any kind and for any term or any clauses that restrict a Fighter from fighting for a rival Promoter or participate in any other fighting competition, including, without limitation, provisions that grant Zuffa the exclusive right to promote a Fighter’s bouts or restrict a Fighter’s ability to render services to or for another MMA Promoter or participate in any other fighting competition;

b. any clauses, in sum or substance, extending the term of an MMA Fighter’s promotional agreement based upon being recognized as “Champion” in any weight division;

c. any clauses granting, in sum or substance, the “Right of First Offer” or the “Right to Match” the financial terms and conditions of any offer made to any MMA Fighter to render services or fight in bouts promoted by another MMA Promoter;

d. any clauses granting Promotional and Ancillary Rights or Merchandise Rights to Zuffa;

e. any clauses requiring MMA Fighters to, in sum or substance, grant to the UFC the exclusive right to promote events, bouts, sponsors, or any other instance featuring an
MMA Fighter;

f. any clauses granting to the UFC, in sum or substance, the right to extend the term;

g. any clauses granting, in sum or substance, the UFC discretion over sponsorship andendorsement approvals;

h. any clauses granting the UFC Merchandise Rights for MMA Fighters;

i. any clauses granting Zuffa the right to, in sum or substance, promote, appropriate, orutilize MMA Fighters’ Identities or likenesses.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 39

All Documents referring or relating to the UFC denying permission to, or otherwisediscouraging, UFC Fighters from contracting or working with particular sponsors, banning or discouraging particular sponsors from contracting with UFC Fighters, banning or discouraging UFC Fighters from contracting with sponsors, or the UFC discussing and/or publicly proclaiming that MMA Fighters who contract with specific sponsors will either be fined, docked compensation, banned from the UFC or punished by the UFC in some other way.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 41

All Documents discussing or referencing Your analysis or interpretation of the role of managers, agents or other representatives of MMA Fighters.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 44

All Documents concerning any actual or potential attempt by MMA Fighters to unionize or organize into another form of collective or collective bargaining unit.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION NO. 49

All Documents referencing or relating to any Social Media accounts operated by or on behalf of Zuffa or any of its executives, agents or Employees, including Documents sufficient to Identify who had responsibility for creating, maintaining, and adding or deleting content (including any private messaging) to or from such Social Media accounts.

This weekend the Association of Boxing Commissions is having their annual meeting in San Diego.

The agenda items will include discussions about

These annual meetings address a host of interesting topics and are important in advancing the regulatory framework for combative sports.  This years full agenda can be found below –

ABC Agenda Day 1

ABC Agenda Day 2

When the UFC came to Halifax in October, 2014, the promotions first and so far only event in Nova Scotia, a host of regulatory issues arose.

First the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority, the entity which has legal jurisdiction to regulate ‘combat sports’ in the Province, turned a blind eye to their regulations for the UFC.  They may have failed to enforce their fighter pay rules for the event headliners, now, MMAFighting reports, they may have bungled disciplinary proceedings following a drug test of competitor Pedro Munhoz.

MMAFighting reports that the NSBA delegated drug testing powers to the UFC following the event.  The UFC conducted a test and subsequently Munhoz was “informed by the Nova Scotia Boxing Authority that my exam came back positive for high levels of testosterone and they would suspend me“.  That suspension is apparently being appealed as the test results are supposedly within prescribed limits according to Munhoz.  Here’s where its interesting, there is no such thing as prescribed limits for testosterone levels in Nova Scotia, in fact the whole PED testing landscape is quite barren.

Just as the ‘unified rules’ of MMA were missing from Nova Scotia’s legal landscape, so too were proper regulations when it comes to defined prohibited substances.

The Nova Scotia Boxing Authority is a creature of statute.  They only have the powers that the legislature gave them.  They were created under the Boxing Authority Act which does not, on its face, give the NSBA power to conduct (or therefore delegate) drug tests.  The Act does allow for Regulations to be passed respecting “conditions…to be observed by any licensee” and further “concerning the medical examination of all boxers”.  Arguably a drug testing regulation can be passed under this power.

Turning to the official Regulations, however, we find only limited statutory power.  With respect to testing powers the Regulations only allow urine testing reading “An application for a boxer’s licence shall be accompanied by…a signed certificate of waiver stating that the boxer will submit to a post-fight urinalysis if the Authority so orders.“.  The section is notably silent on defining which substances are prohibited.  The section is also silent on giving the NSBA authority to delegate drug testing powers to a promoter.

All the balance of the regulations say about prohibited drugs is the following:

184 It is strictly prohibited for boxers to practice “blood boosting”, the intravenous administration of blood or blood products to enhance the boxer’s performance, for non-medical or recreational purposes.

185 (1) The administering or use of drugs or stimulants, including smelling salts or ammonia, either before or during a boxing match, to or by a boxer is strictly prohibited .

(2) No boxer shall ingest any substance, other than plain water or approved medical electrolyte solution provided by the Authority, during the boxing match.

(3) Any boxer violating subsection (1) or (2) shall be disqualified.

186 The discretional use of coagulants listed in Section 170 may be permitted between rounds to stop bleeding from minor cuts and lacerations sustained by a boxer.

187 The use of iron-based coagulants such as “Monsel’s Solution” or any of its derivatives is strictly prohibited and the use of any such coagulant is cause for immediate disqualification.

There is no comprehensive list of banned substances.  There is no list of allowable testosterone levels.  Just a brief reference to the generic and over-broad term ‘drugs’.

To sum up

1. The NSBA does not have a list of actual banned substances

2.  Their PED testing abilities are limited to post bout urine testing

3  They cannot delegate greater PED testing powers to a promoter

4.  According to MMAFighting the test results were within prescribed limits however there is no framework even setting out what these limits are

5.  While the NSBA has the authority to fine and/or suspend licencees who violate their rules, the above framework puts them on thin ice if they are seeking to justify a suspension based on reportedly ‘high’ testosterone levels alone.

The Regulations give Munhoz 20 days to appeal any disciplinary action and if that does not prove successful he is further allowed to appeal to judge of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court within 20 days of the appeal decision.

This is the latest example that drug testing issues in combat sports are complex and lawmakers would be wise to have a clear and comprehensive framework in place not just listing prohibited substances, but also for testing and disciplinary powers.

Adding to this site’s archives canvassing safety studies in combat sports, two studies were published this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.  The first addressed injury rates in elite level amateur boxing.  The second addressed the impact performance of various headgear.

The first study titled “Boxing Injury Epidemiology in the Great Britain Team” reviewed injuries in training and competition in the Great Britain (GB) amateur boxing squad between 2005 and 2009.  The studies highlights were as follows –

  • Total injury rate during competition was 828 injuries per one thousand hours of competition
  • More injuries occurred during training than during competition
  • More injuries affected the hand than any other body location
  • Hand injury rate in competition was 302 injuries per 1000 hours
  • The incidence of recorded concussions was “comparatively low

An abstract of the article can be found here.

The second study, titled “The Impact Performance of Headguards for Combat Sports” aimed to assess the impact energy attenuation performance of a range of headguards for combat sports.

Seven different headguards of varying thickness were  put through a drop test with a 5.6 kg drop assembly mass. Tests were conducted against a “flat rigid anvil” both with and without a boxing glove section.

The results of the study were as follows –

Headguard performance varied by test condition. For the 0.4 m rigid anvil tests, the best model headguard was the thickest producing an average peak headform acceleration over 5 tests of 48 g compared with 456 g for the worst model. The mean peak acceleration for the 0.4, 0.5 and 0.6 frontal and lateral rigid anvil impact tests was between 32% and 40% lower for the Top Ten boxing model compared with the Adidas boxing model. The headguard performance deterioration observed with repeat impact against the flat anvil was reduced for impacts against the glove section. The overall reduction in acceleration for the combination of glove and headguard in comparison to the headguard condition was in the range of 72–93% for 0.6 and 0.8 m drop tests.

An abstract of the study can be found here.

Bellator Logo

 

 

 

This week Koloni, Reklam, Sanayi, Tigater LTD, a minority shareholder of Bellator Sport Worldwide LLC, sued the company’s majority owner in the Superior Court of California.

The lawsuit alleges that since December 2011, when Viacom purchased a controlling interest in the company, the media giant has failed to provide the plaintiff with proper financial statements and further that they diverted “income to its affiliated companies while purposefully obscuring the terms of these (in cage) advertising contracts.” and that the purpose of such an action was to allow Viacom to retain all revenues within its media empire while depriving Bellator and its minority shareholders of “significant revenue“.  The allegations have not yet been proven in court.  At this stage the lawsuit alleges the following causes of action –

  • Breach of Contract
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
  • Unjust Enrichment

The lawsuit seeks damages, potential judicial dissolution or other equitable relief.

A full copy of the Plaintiff’s pleadings can be found here.

 

Zuffa is attempting to delay their obligations for discovery in the UFC Anti Trust Lawsuits until after their motion to dismiss the claims is heard.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen scheduling July 28th as the hearing date for this motion with the Court noting as follows –

PEGGY A. LEEN, Magistrate Judge.

WHEREAS, the Court set the hearing date on Zuffa, LLC’s Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. #103) for July 21, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.;

WHEREAS, counsel representing Zuffa, LLC (“Zuffa”) has a conflict on July 21, 2015;

WHEREAS, the parties met, conferred and agreed that July 28, 2015 was a suitable alternative date on which to have the Motion heard;

WHEREAS, Zuffa’s counsel has confirmed with the Court’s staff that July 28 is an acceptable date to the Court.

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY STIPULATED by and between the parties, through their respective counsel of record, that the July 21, 2015 hearing date on Zuffa’s Motion to Stay Discovery shall be continued to July 28, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.

Earlier this week the Plaintiff’s filed their opposition to Zuffa’s motion.  Zuffa has until July 14 to file their reply.

Jason Cruz at MMAPayout obtained a copy of the Plaintiff’s opposition to Zuffa’s motion which can be found here.

The UFC was quick to put rumours to rest that the heavily marketed featherweight championship bout between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor was at risk after word came out that Aldo may have suffered a broken rib while training.

The UFC assured the public that they had “received official medical confirmation from several doctors that Aldo did not suffer a broken rib“.  How were these doctors so sure?  They reviewed scans, of course, with the UFC statement noting that “Following a review of the scans, it has been determined that the champion suffered a bone bruise to his rib and cartilage injury during training,

Aldo in turn responded releasing the below images publicly.

Jose Aldo Rib Fracture Images

MMAJunkie contributor and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Johhny Benjamin reviewed these images and noted they indeed depict a broken rib and fighting with such a fracture can lead to “potentially life-threatening complication”.

Now could any properly trained doctor misinterpret these images as revealing a mere bone bruise?  Doctor Benjamin answers as follows –

Doctor Benhamin Tweet Re Aldo Fracture

Doctors giving clearance to combat athletes to fight bear a heavy burden.  MMA, according to Zuffa contracts, is an “inherently and abnormally dangerous activity”.  Any physician clearing an athlete to fight must do so with utmost integrity.

You need look no further than to the proposed NFL concussion settlement to understand the integral role doctors can play in the sports industry.  While the lawsuit merits were never tested in court, they were fueled by allegations of doctors fraudulently undermining the real injuries and risk of injuries to athletes.  These allegations breathed new life into otherwise time barred claims and exposed the NFL to enough risk they were willing to throw hundred of millions towards settlement instead of having their business practices scrutinized in trial.

I should note it is not clear who the doctors are that told the UFC Aldo only had a ‘bone bruise to his rib‘ nor is it clear what ‘scans’ these doctors reviewed.  Perhaps they reviewed different films.  Perhaps they have a justifiable difference of opinion from Dr. Benjamin.  If its the above images, however, and if Doctor Benjamin’s interpretation is correct, questions need to be asked for the sake of fighter safety.

Zuffa is aware that the fight business brings risk of potential brain injury litigation.  You can click here for insight from a lawyer from the firm which helped Zuffa in their lobbying efforts to legalize MMA in Canada discuss these risks and note the importance that fraud allegations played in the NFL suit.  The UFC would be wise to utilize practices which would not open the door for similar allegations to be made against them.