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MMA Crossfire – UPDATED – UFC promises to "vigorously defend" itself against class-action lawsuit

It was a day to remember for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and fight fans.

Earlier this afternoon, details were released on a class-action lawsuit against the UFC, launched by a group of former fighters and their attorneys.

Cung Lee, Jon Fitch, Carlos Newton, and Nate Quarry were some of the fighters present or on the phone for the conference call.

Several hours after the call, the UFC posted a brief statement, promising to “vigorously defend” itself against the suit,

“The UFC is aware of the action filed today but has not been served, nor has it had the opportunity to review the document. The UFC will vigorously defend itself and its business practices.”

MMA Crossfire attended the conference call.

Welcome back to The Crossfire.

MMA Crossfire

The UFC appeared to respond by announcing Reebok partnerships with UFC womens bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and lightweight champ Jon Jones.

The company also announced a general sponsorship deal with Reebok and its fighters back on December 2nd. The deal begins in 2015.

Click here to read the lawsuit press release.


UPDATED – 15:58pm: Checked in.

UPDATED – 16:03pm: Standing by.

UPDATED – 16:07: Here we go.

UPDATED – 16:08: Joseph, a lawyer introduces Cung Lee, Nate Quarry, Jon Fitch (not present but on phone because of injury). Lawyers Benjamin Brown of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC (anti-trust DOJ lawyer).

UPDATED – 16:10: At 12:45pm ET, the fighters filed an anti-trust lawsuit in San Jose, California under monopolization against Zuffa LLC (parent company of the UFC).

UPDATED: 16:12: Another lawyer presents the basic allegations: The UFC monopoly robbed the fighters of various financial amounts, due to likeness, image rights etc. Basically the fighters have earned a fraction of their rightful amounts.

The UFC has achieved their monopoly by anti-competitive means.  They bought out competitive organizations (Strikeforce).

UPDATED: 16:15 Michael DeLangelo speaking.

UFC exploits fighters even after the terms of their contracts have ended and after their deaths. Long-term contracts are drafted  that prevent competition, drives fighters revenues down, and their own profit margins up.

Fighters are unable to regain ownership of their own image and likeness.

UPDATED: 16:19 Robert Mazie speaking.

He thanks the first Canadian UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton for his support.

The UFC artificially stymies competition and uses their leverage in other industries.

UPDATED: 16:23 Cung Lee speaking. He thanks his family, students for their support.

UPDATED: 16:25 Nate Quarry speaking. He thanks the media, Carlos Newton, Cung Lee. “This is really about fair market value for the athletes… We deserve to reap the fruit of our labors. We deserve to be in a free marketplace, where we can compete for ourselves.”

UPDATED: 16:27 Floor is open to questions. Lawyer Eric Kramer is now speaking.

The lawsuit did not come together overnight.

They will seek an injunction against the UFC. Free and fair competition is the phrase of the minute. Do not want to get into specifics.

The lawyer are saying sports leagues like the NBA have competition in the sense that the teams are individually owned, which helps foster competition.

A question from AP: What is the damages amount the fighters are looking for? Answer: The amount has not been calculated as of yet.

Will other athletes or unions from other sports join this? Answer: No plans to work with other people from other leagues. Not really in the scope of this lawsuit.

UPDATED: 16:39: Ariel Helwani: What will unfold?

Answer: File the complaint against Zuffa.

Zuffa will be served and respond or motion to dismiss.

If they answer, then documents are exchanged and reviewed and they move towards trial.

Asking the court to designate the class, so the fighters can represent the other fighters.

UPDATED: 16:42: Locked up contracts are an issue. that allows the UFC to dominate the market.

UPDATED: 16:45 No response from the UFC during this process.

UPDATED: 16:47: Any fear of fighter reprisals or retaliation? Answer: The fighters are fighting for their rights. It may happen, but they are not going to speculate.

UPDATED: 16:49 Cung Lee is still under contract with the UFC.

UPDATED: 16:50: John Pollock, The Fight Network: What about the Gilbert Melendez case? Bellator gave him an offer and that seems to contradict the claims the UFC is monopolistic.  Answer: Things like that will be addressed in court.

UPDATED: 16:53: “The UFC is the fastest growing monopoly in the world.”

UPDATED: 16:54 Press conference ends. Materials will be sent to the media describing the lawsuit as well.

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Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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