From the outset, the incident between Drakkar Klose and Jeremy Stephens at the UFC Vegas 24 weigh-ins seemed very clear cut. Klose and Stephens approached one another, Stephens pushed him away, hard. The kind of interaction fans have seen at countless other MMA and combat sports events. Only this time Klose came away from the confrontation with what seems to have been some pretty severe whiplash and a potential concussion. His bout with Stephens had to be cancelled, although Klose eventually received his ‘show’ money for the event.
In the aftermath, it seemed worth asking if Klose should attempt to take Stephens to court over the incident, considering he ended up with an injury that could mean a potential loss of future earnings. However, Dana White threw an unexpected wrinkle into the discussion, when he essentially laid the responsibility for the whole interaction at the promotion’s feet in an interview with Canada’s The Sports Network.
“I mean, there is a rule,” Dana White responded when asked if the UFC would implement a new rule to stop fighters from physical confrontations during media events. “I mean, that’s why we’re there. Sean Shelby missed that one... We’re not standing there to look good and take pictures. We’re there to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
So, if Dana White is putting the responsibility for stopping weigh-in confrontations squarely on the promotion’s shoulders, it seems like Drakkar Klose might have a case to take the UFC to court, right? After all, there’s a lot more money to be had from the world’s largest mixed martial arts organization than there is from a single fighter.
Bloody Elbow spoke to a practicing attorney (who asked not to be named, but can be found at ‘PissedOffLawyer’ on Twitter) with nearly a decade of experience litigating actions involving claims of employment discrimination, sexual assault/harassment, and excessive force on the part of law enforcement, as well as tort actions involving sports venues and operators, as to whether Klose had a case to make. In his opinion, any lawsuit against the UFC would likely get thrown out in a hurry.
“There are multiple reasons a suit like this would very likely be dismissed very early on, to the point that he would have a lot of difficulty getting a competent lawyer to even take the case.
“First, the cause of action would be based in something akin to negligent supervision/security, which – under the common law in most jurisdictions – requires a showing of duty to protect, followed by a breach, etc. To the extent the UFC has a duty to protect fighters from violence perpetrated by opponents during face-off, and I’ll assume such a duty exists for purposes of this exercise, they very likely satisifed that duty by having security nearby for precisely this sort of thing.
“More to the point, one defense to this type of claim is that the incident occurred quickly and without warning, such that no degree of increased security/supervision would have prevented it. That’s exactly what happened here.
“Second, one argument that would be necessary to establish the existence of the duty in the first place , or the scope of the duty (that is, the specific level of security measures needed), would be about how often this type of thing happens. And while the evidence of frequency would likely help on the question of duty/scope (since we all know this is a relatively common occurrence at UFC/MMA weigh-ins/face-off events), it would be a very bad fact for Klose on the assumption of risk defense. Basically, he knew what he was getting himself into and either knew or should have known the risks.
“Third, there is probably language in UFC contracts that bars this sort of suit, or at least spells out the risks assumed by fighters or wives liability claims against the UFC.
“If Klose chose to sue the UFC for this shove based on a theory of negligent security, his odds of success would likely be worse than Logan Paul’s odds of beating Floyd Mayweather on June 5, if that is even possible.”
There you have it. Even if Dana White shifts the blame entirely onto UFC brass for not preventing the weigh in confrontation between Stephens and Klose, there’s very likely no way for Klose to follow that up in court to any kind of financial payoff. Whether any of that saves Stephens from a lawsuit as well, however?
“Klose could have a viable claim for assault and battery against Stephens, considering the shove occurred outside of MMA competition. Any claim by Stephens that the assumption of risk doctrine offers him a viable defense would likely be rejected, as the doctrine typically only applies to negligence claims, not intentional torts such as assault and battery. A related defense to such a claim is consent, and it is clear he did not outright consent to being shoved by Stephens, even if MMA fighters arguably assume the risk that they might be shoved during these face-offs, due to how common it is.
“But, Klose faces a practical issue: his claim would likely not be worth a significant amount of money if he recovers quickly, and that might make it difficult to secure representation, even if he wanted to pursue a case.”
Hopefully, Klose does recover quickly from his concussion and whiplash symptoms, and can get back to fighting in the near future. Head and neck injuries have a serious potential to derail an athlete’s career, and it doesn’t sound like Klose would have many opportunities to find a silver lining out of the situation by taking anyone to court.