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UFC reaches settlement in antitrust lawsuits, agrees to pay out $335 million

The lawsuits alleged Zuffa, the predecessor entity that owned and operated UFC, violated antitrust laws by paying fighters far less than they were entitled to receive and eliminating or hurting other MMA promoters.  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
The lawsuits alleged Zuffa, the predecessor entity that owned and operated UFC, violated antitrust laws by paying fighters far less than they were entitled to receive and eliminating or hurting other MMA promoters. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) (Chris Unger via Getty Images)

TKO Group Holdings, parent company of UFC, has reached a settlement agreement in two antitrust lawsuits filed by former UFC fighters.

The settlement, which was reached on March 13, will see TKO Group pay out $335 million, according to an SEC filing.

Zuffa, the predecessor entity that owned and operated UFC, was the defendant in five related class-action lawsuits filed between December 2014 and March 2015, which were consolidated into a single action in June 2015 (Le et al. v. Zuffa). An additional lawsuit, Johnson et al. v. Zuffa, was filed in 2021.

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The lawsuits alleged Zuffa violated antitrust laws by paying UFC fighters far less than they were entitled to receive and eliminating or hurting other MMA promoters, according to Variety. UFC fighters Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch filed their initial complaint against Zuffa in federal court in California in December 2014; that was subsequently joined by fighters Brandon Vera, Luis Javier Vazquez and Kyle Kingsbury. On June 23, 2021, Kajan Johnson and C.B. Dollaway filed a proposed class-action antitrust lawsuit against Zuffa and Endeavor with similar allegations that UFC engaged in illegal anticompetitive action.

Per MMA Fighting, approximately 1,200 fighters were involved in the first class action suit. The judge in the case said there would not be another postponement unless both sides reached a resolution.

The first antitrust lawsuit was filed in 2014 with fighters involved alleging that UFC engaged "in a scheme to acquire and maintain monopsony power in the market for elite professional MMA fighter services.” The claim alleged that UFC used exclusive contracts to delay or prevent free agency for fighters; coerced fighters into re-signing; and acquired promotors to eliminate potential competition.

A trial, which was expected to last a month, was scheduled to begin April 15 with damages expected to reach $1.6 billion.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement to settle all claims asserted in both the Le and Johnson class action lawsuits, bringing litigation to a close and benefiting all parties,” said a UFC spokesperson in a statement. “The final terms of the settlement will be submitted to the court for approval.”