MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) has learned that Bellator Sport Worldwide, LLC today filed suit against Zuffa in a New Jersey court and alleges that "The Ultimate Fighter 12" cast member Jonathan Brookins (11-3 MMA, 1-0 BFC) joined the Spike TV reality series while still under an exclusive contract for Bellator.
Brookins and his manager Mickey Dubberley were also named as defendants in the suit.
A WEC veteran, Brookins is perhaps best known for a November 2008 loss to Jose Aldo, the current WEC featherweight champion. According to the suit, Brookins signed an "exclusive promotional contract" with Bellator in March 2009.
Brookins debuted with Bellator in April 2009 with a submission win over Stephen Ledbetter in a non-tournament affair. Brookins followed up those fights with a pair of wins under the G-Force Fights banner. Bellator's suit contends they signed off on each of the two fights outside of their promotion.
However, Bellator contends when it came to an appearance on "The Ultimate Fighter," Brookins did not seek permission. In fact, the complaint states that Brookins manager actually lied to Bellator about his client's status.
"We've been offering the fighter fights, and hindsight being 20-20, we were lied to by his management saying he was injured and couldn't accept fights," Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney today told MMAjunkie.com. "We find out afterward he was filming and fighting on 'The Ultimate Fighter' – that he made the show and was in the house."
I can't speak to the legal merits of the argument yet. We'll all have to wait for further information regarding any outcome to this dispute. However, Brookins' manager has one of the most "dog ate my homework" inept excuses in recorded human history for how his client is seemingly double booked:
Dubberley, who was not aware of the suit when contacted by MMAjunkie.com, contends Brookins did nothing wrong and had been verbally released from his deal by Bellator matchmaker Sam Caplan.
Rebney strongly disagrees.
"That is a complete and total fabrication that couldn't be further from the truth," Rebney said. "Sam has been repeatedly trying to get Jonathan to accept fights. We've been told he was injured. We were lied to.
It's hard to tell if Brookins is managed by Chael Sonnen under a pseudonym and this is another attempt at epic trolling. How on earth a person who claims to professionally manage the interests of another person believes verbal dismissal (if that even happened, and I suspect it didn't) is constitutive of acceptable circumvention around explicit legal barriers written in contract is beyond me. More to come.
UPDATE: Legal counsel tells me it is possible to have contracts nullified verbally, but the laws vary state to state and more importantly, it's incredibly difficult to prove.