Lawyers for the fighters suing the UFC on antitrust grounds filed an emergency motion, asking a federal court to extend the discovery deadline so they can depose UFC President Dana White, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and some other witnesses.
The UFC asked the same court to block depositions of Cuban as well as others, including boxing promoter Bob Arum, taking issue with the lawyers’ timing and notice for depositions.
The cutoff for discovery in the case, in which fighters are alleging the UFC violates antitrust law, was May 1.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, who include former UFC fighters Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch, are asking that the discovery period be extended by two months. Attorneys for the UFC are willing to agree to extend it by 30 days but no more, and are asking the court to exclude multiple witnesses whom the plaintiffs seek to depose.
Judge Peggy Leen, a U.S. district court magistrate, has set a hearing on the dispute for this Thursday in federal court in Nevada.
“There are issues that are critical to our case that the UFC is blocking and we need to develop that evidence,” said Matthew Weiler, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The UFC declined to comment, but in a letter sent to Leen, it said it has produced “millions of pages of never before disclosed confidential documents, including the UFC’s financial information.”
|The plaintiffs want texts from Dana White’s flip phone.
It is well-known in MMA circles that the fighters suing the UFC were planning to depose White, but he had not been deposed as of last week. It was not well-known that the fighters were trying to depose Cuban, who owns AXS TV, formerly HDNet, which has televised MMA events.
It is common for attorneys to gather documents or other written information created by a witness prior to deposing that person. White is a key witness in this case.
“Plaintiffs expect they will be able to depose Dana White, no matter what,” Weiler said. “The issues as described in the motion are with Mr. White’s cell phones.”
The fighters’ lawyers, in their court papers, say it is essential they get White’s texts from his phones, as it is public knowledge he communicated business and other dealings by text, rather than email or other forms of communication. “White’s heavy reliance on his Nokia 6101 ‘flip”’ phone is well known and publicly discussed by White himself and presented in numerous pictures,” the fighters said in court papers. They include stories about White detailing his phone habits, including the use of the outdated phone.
In court papers, the fighters said that the UFC has produced some but not all of the texts they are seeking from four phones used by White. There have been problems in producing the texts, as well as the four phones that White uses, according to a letter the fighters filed with the court. The UFC “has yet to propose a protocol to extract data from White’s business ‘flip’ phone and has not yet located his fourth phone, having acknowledged today that ‘it may have been discarded,’” the fighters allege.
The UFC said in its letter to Leen that it has produced 6,800 text messages from two phones White used. The UFC said the fighters did not ask for additional texts until recently and they would produce “relevant existing texts.”
From Cuban, the fighters are apparently seeking testimony in regard to his efforts to launch an MMA organization that would rival the UFC back in 2007. White and Cuban were involved in a public spat, as well as a lawsuit over Cuban’s HDNet Fights about 10 years ago. Cuban is president, CEO and chairman of AXS TV, the successor company to HDNet.
“The UFC killed HDNet Fights (AXS’s entity that ran the live MMA events) in the cradle by suing HDNet and asserting that the exclusivity provisions in the UFC contract of a renowned MMA fighter, Randy Couture, prevented him from fighting for HDNet,” the fighters said in court papers.
Cuban has filed a legal action in federal court in Dallas asking to quash the subpoena.
Cuban declined to comment for this story. But in his motion to quash, his attorneys argue that he is a third party to the case, that other people can testify to the issue and that the fighters have not met the legal standard they need to depose him.
The fighters opposed Cuban’s motion to quash the subpoena, saying they need to talk to Cuban himself. “Documents produced in discovery show that Mr. Cuban communicated directly with Mr. White,” the fighters said.
“Only Mr. Cuban can testify as to the content of those conversations, and to his motives and impressions from those conversations.”