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Volume 20 No. 46
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Lawyers will seek to depose UFC’s White in antitrust lawsuit

Lawyers for a group of UFC fighters will seek to depose UFC executives, including President Dana White, in litigation that alleges the MMA powerhouse violates antitrust laws.

If the fighters win, it could mean monetary damages for current and former UFC fighters, as well as a new system that allows competition for their services, attorneys for the fighter plaintiffs say.

“We are going to seek to depose many of the UFC executives and upper management, as well as several third parties,” said Eric Cramer, a partner at Berger & Montague, and a co-lead counsel representing the plaintiffs. A decision has not been made as to whether the plaintiffs will depose executives from WME-IMG, which acquired the UFC earlier this year, but Cramer said plaintiffs’ attorneys would “most certainly” depose UFC’s White.

A federal judge in Nevada last month formally rejected a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by fighters alleging that the UFC violates antitrust laws, making way for a trial to be held on the issue in 2018.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware issued a written opinion rejecting UFC attorneys’ arguments that the case should be thrown out on multiple grounds.

“We are confident that we are going to be able to prove all the facts and allegations in our complaint and I am looking forward to taking this case to trial and taking this case before a jury,” Cramer said.

The case was filed against the UFC in 2014. Boulware ruled from the bench in September 2015 that he would not throw out the case, but did not issue a written decision until last month.

The UFC is being represented by the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner. The UFC declined to comment last week.

But last year, after Boulware ruled from the bench, the UFC said in a statement, “The Court correctly explained that on a motion to dismiss it must consider all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and the complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiffs. Using that standard, the Court denied the motion to dismiss. As we have consistently stated, UFC competes in a lawful manner that benefits athletes around the world and has created a premier organization in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). We look forward to proving that the allegations in the complaint are meritless.”

In his written decision, Boulware noted that UFC attorneys argued that the case should be thrown out on multiple grounds, including “that its exclusive dealing agreements are insufficient to establish anticompetitive behavior,” according to the decision.

But Boulware rejected that, writing, “Plaintiffs allege multiple acts that, as a whole, constitute an anticompetitive scheme. Exclusive dealing arrangements are but a part of this scheme. For example, Plaintiffs allege that UFC’s exclusionary scheme included the use of threats, intimidation, and retaliation against MMA fighters who work with or for would-be rivals or speak out against the UFC.”

Lawyers in the case are now in the discovery phase, and the UFC has deposed one fighter, Nate Quarry, one of the original plaintiffs, who is now retired from MMA.

Discovery and depositions must be completed by May 1, 2017. A hearing on the plaintiffs’ requests for class certification is expected in early 2018, and all motions and replies for summary judgment are due May 25, 2018. A trial date has not been set, but could be set after that.

> EBMG SIGNS WINTER OLYMPIANS: Ella Bee Media Group has signed three clients who are pointed toward the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, including snowboarder Ty Walker.

EBMG also signed snowboarder Faye Gulini and freestyle skier Annalisa Drew. EBMG founders and agents Lila Brown and Richard Thorpe will represent the clients.

None of them were previously represented, and they don’t have any endorsements. The first order of business, Brown said, is to manage the athletes’ day-to-day activities, as well as facilitate sponsorship and publicity opportunities.

Brown and Thorpe founded EBMG in 2010. The Los Angeles-based firm specializes in representing Olympians, and clients Courtney Mathewson of the women’s water polo team, gymnast Danell Leyva, and volleyball team member Rachael Adams, won a total of one gold, two silver and one bronze medals at the Rio Olympics this summer.

Liz Mullen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.