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UFC wants follow-up antitrust lawsuit thrown out

While the The et al. against Zuffa LLC The antitrust case against the UFC remains in limbo pending a judge’s written order on a nearly four-year-old motion for class certification, a decision could come any day on whether to A lawsuit, filed by former UFC fighters Kajan Johnson and CB Dollaway, will be allowed to move forward.

Both cases are overseen by U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware of Las Vegas, NV and allege that the UFC unlawfully acquired and maintained monopoly and monopsony power in the MMA industry through the use of fighter contracts. long-term exclusive rights, among other corporate conduct. the Johnson complaint, as stated in the court documents, is essentially an attempt to hold the UFC liable for the continuation of this alleged anti-competitive conduct after June 30, 2017, the deadline for the the lawsuit, originally filed in December 2014. Johnson The case also attempts to bring UFC parent company Endeavor Group Holdings as a defendant.

As the plaintiffs described in court documents, the Johnson Complaint was filed “for two limited purposes: (1) to hold Endeavor accountable…for its active involvement in the suppression of combatant compensation; and (2) preserve the rights of combatants injured by [UFC’s] driving after June 30, 2017.”

The UFC’s response to the Johnson trial is intriguing. On the one hand, the promotion is fighting to have the complaint dismissed. Yet, on the other hand, he seems almost to welcome the discovery that the new lawsuit could bring for the period 2017-2021.

In documents filed for its motion to dismiss, the UFC makes technical arguments that the Johnson complaint “clones the facts of the the complaint as if it were 2014 again,” defines the MMA market in a “woefully underinclusive” way, and relies on the vague notion of a “top-ranked” fighter. It also claims that Endeavor should be dismissed as a defendant because a parent company cannot be held liable for alleged anti-competitive behavior “purely based on its ownership”.

Yet other parts of his filings have a distinctly different tone. claim it Johnson plaintiffs ignored new developments in MMA market conditions such as the “massive funding” of the PFL, the expansion of ONE Championship in North America and the “significant increase” in Bellator’s revenue, the UFC seems willing to delve into the facts surrounding business developments in the MMA industry since the promotion’s blockbuster $4 billion sale in the summer of 2016. The potential relevance is that both lawsuits, at their heart, bear over the UFC’s alleged ability to anti-competitively prevent rival MMA promotions from competing effectively.

“In reality, the forensically discernible facts and market developments since 2017 do not suggest the presence of new anticompetitive conduct in support of this case,” the UFC noted in a filed response to its motion to dismiss. “On the contrary, they not only suggest that the Johnson The complaints must be dismissed, but they also challenge the basis of the the complaint. There, plaintiffs alleged that new market entrants could not emerge, existing competitors could not grow, and athletes could not move freely among MMA promoters – yet that is exactly the contrary that occurred during the years covered by the Johnson Complaint. And, at the same time, athlete salaries continue to rise, with the UFC leading the way in athlete compensation.

It’s an interesting development for a global set of antitrust claims that have been halted waiting for one man – Judge Boulware – to put his class certification thoughts in writing for over a year now. The UFC would like for the Johnson the case is to be dismissed, but seems ready to dive into discovery if it were to go ahead. The plaintiffs’ attorneys bringing the two cases certainly don’t want the UFC’s damages period to end in June 2017. But they may also have filed the Johnson complaint to avoid possible competition from a third party law firm who allegedly contacted fighters about a possible trial of their own.

We hope to know soon if the Johnson the complaint will continue and, if so, what kind of discovery will take place in the last few years since Endeavor bought a majority stake in the UFC. Discovery of the original the The lawsuit resulted in significant disclosures about the sport’s business back-end, including the percentage of event revenue paid to fighters, the length of fighters’ contracts and the UFC event economy. With the Johnson complaint, there may be even more.