Three high-profile mixed martial arts fighters filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday accusing the UFC of illegally monopolizing power in the industry by eliminating its competition.
Former UFC fighters Jon Fitch and Nate Quarry, along with Cung Le, who is still under contract with the UFC, also accuse the Zuffa-owned company of "artificially suppressing fighters' " earnings with their contracts and practices.
The civil suit alleges that the UFC has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by illegally scheming to create a non-competitive marketplace that restricts the earning capabilities of fighters, as well as coercing fighters to relinquish rights to their names and likenesses. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief and damages, and the suit claims to represent a class of current and former UFC fighters in similar situations as Le, Quarry and Fitch.
"This lawsuit is about fairness," Quarry told reporters during a press conference in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday. "It's about a fair market value for the athletes. … It's time for those things to change. We deserve to be out in a free market place."
Zuffa is primarily owned by billionaires Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, along with UFC president Dana White.
The UFC has had a stranglehold on MMA for the majority of the 21st century, and Zuffa has either bought up or driven out several other viable promotions. The suit references past statements made by White and other UFC officials comparing the promotion and its practices to that of the NFL and NBA, but makes a distinction in regards to those leagues' ability to foster an open market by creating a bidding war among individual teams.
The lawsuit alleges that the UFC has maintained control of more than 90 percent of the revenue derived from live MMA bouts nationwide. It also maintains that the UFC has allegedly retaliated against fighters who have worked with or who have announced intentions to work with rival promoters.
“UFC’s threats are taken seriously by fighters because they know that a UFC ban will substantially diminish, if not end, their ability to earn a living at their chosen profession,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Joseph Saveri of Saveri Law Firm, Inc. “These MMA professionals deserve the right to take back their careers.”
For its part, the UFC posted the following statement to its website:
"The UFC is aware of the action filed today but has not been served, nor has it had the opportunity to review the document. The UFC will vigorously defend itself and its business practices."
Below is the lawsuit, in full: