Late last year the judge overseeing the antitrust lawsuit against the UFC indicated he likely is going to grant class certification. When a proposed class action lawsuit is launched one or several plaintiffs allege wrongdoing. They further allege that many other victims exist and that the lawsuit should include everybody. This is the class. Certification means the court goes on to make the lawsuit include everyone in the class unless they specifically choose to opt out.
In the antitrust lawsuit the likely approved class is defined as follows:
All persons who competed in one or more live professional UFC-promoted MMA bouts taking place or broadcast in the United States from December 16, 2010, to June 30, 2017
As you can imagine this is a very large class which will expand the lawsuit from including just a handful of named plaintiffs to hundreds of individuals.
Last month a law firm unrelated to the class action started targeting potential class members directly. A move that likely caused confusion to some of the approached individuals. In a move that will help add clarity to this complex legal saga the plaintiffs and their lawyers involved in the lawsuit just launched ufcclassaction.com.
This website is a great starting point for any potential class members that may have questions about the lawsuit and what it hopes to accomplish. It also is a good resource for members of the public seeking a better understanding of this complex litigation.
The website’s home page provides the following plain English overview:
In December 2014, a group of current and former MMA fighters filed a Class Action lawsuit against the Ultimate Fighting Championship (the “UFC”), and its parent company Zuffa, LLC. The Class Representatives for this lawsuit include Cung Le, Nathan Quarry, Jon Fitch, Brandon Vera, Luis Javier Vazquez, and Kyle Kingsbury. The Class Representatives claim that the UFC used improper strategies to dominate the market for MMA fighter services, allowing it to pay its MMA fighters less than half as much as they otherwise would have received. The fighters also claim that the UFC violated the antitrust laws to the detriment of all MMA fighters. These Class Representatives filed the lawsuit not only for themselves but also seek to represent about 1,200 other current and former UFC fighters. One of their goals is to recover money for all 1,200 fighters. Another goal is to force the UFC to change the way it does business.
After over six years of hard-fought litigation, the Court announced in December 2020 that it intends to certify a class and issue its written opinion. Once class certification is granted the Class Representatives and the lawyers who represent them will represent the entire class.
All persons who competed in one or more live professional UFC-promoted MMA bouts taking place or broadcast in the United States from December 16, 2010, to June 30, 2017.
The Court has not yet decided whether the fighters should win the litigation, but its decision to certify a class is a major victory. It puts the fighters in a strong position as they push the case toward a trial.
At trial, the Class Representatives plan to show that if the UFC had not violated the antitrust laws, the fighters would have received 50% or more of the revenues from MMA events. That is similar to the percentage of revenues boxers receive, as do athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB. UFC MMA fighters, in contrast, get paid only about 20% of event revenues. The fighters seek to recover the difference in pay as damages.
The case Cung Le, et al. v. Zuffa, LLC d/b/a Ultimate Fighting Championship and UFC, No. 2:15-cv-01045-RFB-BNW (D. Nev.) is pending before the Honorable Richard Boulware in federal court in Nevada. The Court has appointed three law firms to lead the effort against the UFC on behalf of the fighters. Those law firms are Berger Montague PC, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and the Joseph Saveri Law Firm, Inc. Other counsel for the fighters include Kemp Jones LLP and Warner Angle Hallam Jackson & Formanek PLC.