What’s the story?
Bellator MMA and UFC are throwing down, not in the ring, but in the courtroom. The two companies are going head to head over financial and contractual information.
Bellator has filed a lawsuit to quash a subpoena from UFC to have access to information regarding its finances and contractual agreements.
In case you didn’t know
UFC is embroiled in an antitrust case after a group of fighters said the promoter was in violation of antitrust laws.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 against Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the UFC at the time, by UFC middleweight Cung Le and former UFC fighters Jon Fitch and Nathan Quarry. Since then, a number of former fighters have joined the case.
The class action suit accuses the company of the following:
“Running an illegal scheme to eliminate competition from would-be rival MMA Promoters by systematically preventing them from gaining access to resources critical to successful MMA Promotions, including by imposing extreme restrictions on UFC Fighters' ability to fight for would-be rivals during and after their tenure with the UFC."
The heart of the matter
The lawsuit against UFC alleges that the company is a monopoly that forces out rival promotions and restricts fighters’ earnings. The lawsuit further alleges that UFC profits from individual marketing agreements, and signs with outside sponsors.
The lawsuit alleges that these are monopolistic practices that limit fighters' earnings. UFC filed subpoenas asking that their lawyers be allowed to see financial and contractual agreements of the fighters. One of the companies targeted is Bellator.
Bellator has struck back, filing a lawsuit to quash the subpoenas. The affidavit from Bellator states:
“The subpoenas improperly seek trade secret and other sensitive information protected from disclosure; they are overbroad and unduly burdensome; and this information cannot be adequately protected by the litigants’ stipulated protective order."
The company further says that it has already submitted over two thousand pages of documents in response to the antitrust case.
In court documents, Bellator president Scott Coker said that Bellator is not a party in the antitrust case and should not have to produce some of the confidential documents that have been demanded. He added that doing this would do grave harm to Bellator.
In his eight-page statement, Coker said:
“Disclosure of Bellator's confidential information pursuant to the Nevada subpoena would give Bellator's largest and most powerful competitor a significant and unilateral advantage that would negatively harm Bellator and, in my opinion, stifle competition in the MMA industry.
“For example, if individual athlete contract information were provided Bellator's competitors, they would be able to anticipate Bellator's recruitment strategics, outflanking its ability to sign the best fighters, anticipating its strategics in each respective weight class and geographic market, and compromising its strategic plans to develop the best overall promotion,”
In his closing statement, Coker, who sold Strikeforce to the UFC in 2011, aimed a punch at his rival, saying that he had seen the company buyout, marginalise and even drive competitors from the market.
The court will now decide whether the subpoenas will be quashed or modified.
This is not the first time that Bellator and UFC have come to blows, however, for the benefit of the fighters it is important that the ever-increasing monopoly of the UFC in the world of Mixed Martial Arts is kept in check.
Send us news tips at firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished 26 Feb 2017, 17:06 IST