Zuffa sues for alleged theft of trade secrets

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

LAS VEGAS – Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting, has filed suit against Ken Pavia, one of the sport's most prominent fighter agents, alleging Pavia passed along trade secrets and confidential Zuffa documents to rival mixed martial arts promotion Bellator.

The suit alleges that Bellator used the documents to help run its business.

Pavia is the founder of MMA Agents and represents in excess of 50 fighters, more than 40 of whom are now or have been in the past under contract to Zuffa.

Bellator, which is a co-defendant, is a fledgling MMA promotional company that has earned rave reviews for the entertaining fights it made during its first two seasons, which were broadcast initially on ESPN Deportes and then on FOX Sports Net, among other networks.

According to the suit, filed Wednesday in Clark County District Court, Pavia delivered confidential contracts, including fighter agreements, to Bellator after being asked to do so in a July 4 email to him from Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney.

In a text message to Yahoo! Sports on Thursday, Pavia wrote "I want to get a better understanding of this before I comment." Rebney referred calls to Bellator attorney Patrick English.

"I've looked at the paperwork, and I understand what's going on here, and it is literally much ado about very little," English said.

"There were documents sent by Mr. Pavia to Bellator, but they are not of a competitive nature and they would give no advantage or disadvantage to the viewer. The bulk of them in no way, shape or form would be considered confidential and are not what I consider to be documents that Zuffa should be concerned about.

"I did attempt to reach out to Zuffa [Thursday] and, unfortunately, have not gotten a return call. It happens that Bellator has not used any of the documents in any case."

An email which Zuffa's lawsuit alleges is from Rebney to Pavia on July 4 was attached as an exhibit to the 16-page suit. In it, Rebney writes, " … You've been great about sending us 'All' of the seminal docs from the UFC, so that we can re-do them and implement them for Bellator."

Later, the email Zuffa alleges to have been written by Rebney continues, "Please list each in terms of what it is for and how the UFC uses them/implements them. … Then I'm going to have our team Monday re-type them and we will sufficiently alter them such that they will appear to be ours and not theirs."

The response that is purported to have come from Pavia is brief and says, in its entirety, "Still I (sic) vegas. May take 24 hours to organize as some forms go to the guys in my office."

Pavia was in Las Vegas for UFC 116 on July 3 and the alleged email is dated July 4. The email addresses that are in the emails Zuffa included are the email addresses for Rebney and Pavia.

English said Rebney's email "was phrased in an unfortunate way."

Also included in the suit are unnamed persons and corporations that Zuffa alleges participated in breach of contract. According to the suit, "The improper disclosure of Zuffa's operations documents and confidential information by Pavia, MMA Agents, and the Doe and Roe Defendants constitutes a distinct act of dominion wrongfully exerted over Zuffa's personal property."

It further states, "The improper use by Bellator of Zuffa's operational documents and confidential information in order to conduct its competing business operations constitutes a distinct act of dominion wrongfully exerted over Zuffa's personal property."

Zuffa seeks actual and punitive damages and a permanent injunction barring Bellator or Pavia from using Zuffa's assets, including its intellectual property.

This story was updated July 30 at 12:45 p.m. ET.