Bloody Elbow continues to follow the twists and turns of the the UFC Anti-Trust lawsuit aka Le et al vs. Zuffa LLC. That class action lawsuit, filed by a cadre of former fighters, is arguing that the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) have created a monopsony (where there is a single buyer of services that is so powerful it creates an unfair playing field) within the mixed martial arts industry.
One of the latest twists in this tale happened when part of the testimony from former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva was struck from the record. Zuffa has since filed a motion requesting that the court reverse that decision.
Here’s what went down:
During a hearing on September 23, 2019 the plaintiffs in this case (fighters including Cung Le, Nathan Quarry, Jon Fitch, Brandon Vera, Luis Javier Vasquez, and Kyle Kingsbury) objected to part of Silva’s testimony. The judge sustained the objection meaning that part of the testimony was stricken from the record.
A motion filed by Zuffa stated that the portion of Silva’s testimony that the plaintiffs objected to involved the former Zuffa employee discussing, “event revenue, his lack of budget, and whether he used Zuffa’s revenue at all in negotiating compensation with athletes”.
The motion then quoted part of the plaintiffs’ objection to Silva’s testimony on revenues, stating: “now we’re going to have this lay witness testify apparently about an economic concept that seems inappropriate and brand new.”
In its motion Zuffa rejected this quote from the plaintiffs and argued that Silva’s answers on questions pertaining to revenue are pertinent and should be put back on the record.
Zuffa’s argument included their claim that the court had previous expressed an interest in knowing whether the company had a practice of paying fighters based on revenues and percentages. In the motion Zuffa also attacked the plaintiffs claims that Silva’s testimony included information that constitutes ‘unfair surprises’. To counter that argument, Zuffa stated that the plaintiffs had ample opportunity to learn this information from Silva during a 10-hour deposition.
In the motion, Zuffa then revealed how they expect Silva to answer questions regarding the relationship between event revenues and fighter pay. That portion of the motion is quoted below:
Zuffa proffers that, if allowed to answer the questions asked, Mr. Silva would testify that:
Mr. Silva did not know Zuffa’s event revenues at the time he negotiated athlete compensation.
At no point during the class period was Mr. Silva told he had a budget for athlete compensations.
At no point during the class period was Mr. Silva told that he was spending too much on athletes.
Mr. Silva had never heard of the concept of paying athletes a share of revenues until he learned of this lawsuit.
During the class period, no mixed martial arts athlete ever asked Mr. Silva for a contract where the athlete would earn certain percentage of the event revenue as payment.
Writing for MMA Payout Jason Cruz, who co-hosts Bloody Elbow’s Show Money podcast, wrote that it was unlikely that Zuffa will succeed with this motion. “It’s hard to think the Court overturns its own decision despite Zuffa’s assertion that the purpose of having Silva testify was premised upon his knowledge of what he knew about how the UFC paid fighters,” wrote Cruz.
Silva, who served as head UFC matchmaker from 2001 to 2016 has been an important focal point of Le et al vs. Zuffa LLC. His practices around fighter pay and negotiations were examined in an expert report by Dr. Hal Singer, an expert witness for the plaintiffs. That report revealed Silva’s tactics over extending fighter contracts if they turned down fights, offering ‘tough’ low-exposure fights to contract rebels, and convincing a fighter to take far less than their contracted amount in exchange for not being cut by the promotion.
For the best analysis of the lawsuit and all the information it has spewed forth about the UFC and the MMA industry, see below for Bloody Elbow’s John S. Nash’s series of posts covering Zuffa finances and fighter pay.