The Ultimate Fighting Championship and fighters suing it over an anti-competitive “scheme” that allegedly keeps their earnings low have just traded some of the most important blows in the potentially multibillion-dollar case, with each side trying to knock out the other’s experts ahead of a class certification decision.
In a brief filed Thursday, UFC’s parent company Zuffa LLC pummeled Hal J. Singer, the economics professor and antitrust expert hired by Cung Le and his proposed class of fighters to prove that Zuffa has intentionally repressed their wages for years by buying up competitors or choking off their oxygen by locking up top fighters in exclusive multiyear contracts.
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Zuffa’s brief comes just a few days after a week’s worth of hearings in Nevada that focused overwhelmingly on Singer and other experts’ competing analyses.
The relative merits of those experts’ economic theories is expected to play the deciding role as U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware prepares to rule on Le’s year-old motion for class certification. Le is seeking to represent a class of about 1,200 fighters that he claims were cheated out of about $1 billion over the course of the past six years.
Notably, neither side disputes that as UFC grew it repeatedly sought to take down rival mixed martial arts organizations. One memorable filing contained a text message from one UFC executive to another stating that “we gotta keep taking these f*cker’s oxygen.” The question before Judge Boulware is whether those efforts actually depressed wages for their fighters.
Singer’s analysis hinges on the argument that Zuffa’s allegedly anti-competitive practices have allowed it to depress the so-called wage share, the overall percentage of UFC revenues that ultimately get paid out to the fighters.
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The fighters are represented by Eric L. Cramer, Michael Dell’Angelo, Patrick F. Madden and Mark R. Suter of Berger & Montague PC, Joseph R. Saveri, Joshua P. Davis, Jiamin Chen and Kevin E. Rayhill of Joseph Saveri Law Firm Inc., Benjamin D. Brown, Richard A. Koffman and Dan Silverman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Don Springmeyer and Bradley Schrager of Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin LLP, Robert C. Maysey and Jerome K. Elwell of Warner Angle Hallam Jackson & Formanek PLC, William G. Caldes of Spector Roseman Kodroff & Willis PC, John D. Radice of Radice Law Firm PC and Frederick S. Schwartz of The Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz.
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