U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware in Nevada granted class-action status to over 1,200 martial arts fighters suing the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for allegedly suppressing their earnings. The potential damages range between $811 million to $1.6 billion.
The fighters, who competed in UFC-promoted events from December 2010 to June 2017, allege that the Nevada-based Zuffa, operating as UFC, utilized its dominant market position to obstruct rival promoters and relied on exclusive contracts to keep fighters loyal, consequently reducing bout compensation. Lead attorney Eric Cramer highlighted that while major sports pay athletes over 50% of event revenues, UFC fighters receive only 20%.
Responding to the issue of the UFC fighters class-action lawsuit, UFC lawyer William Isaacson stated intentions to appeal, labeling the lawsuit “legally and factually meritless.” UFC emphasized a competitive MMA market beneficial for athletes, promoters, and fans.
Judge Boulware’s detailed 80-page order recognized that the fighters had demonstrated economic harm due to UFC’s “anti-competitive conduct.” However, the court has yet to decide on a similar lawsuit regarding fighters from mid-2017 onwards. Additionally, Boulware declined a second class certification regarding fighters whose identities were used by UFC in promotional materials.
A status conference is slated for Aug. 21, with no trial date confirmed.
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