By Zach Arnold | January 11, 2017
Brock Lesnar’s smile at the Winnipeg Jets game on Tuesday got wiped away in a hurry after Mark Hunt officially filed a lawsuit in Federal court in Las Vegas for fraud, unjust enrichment, and racketeering.
Hunt, along with his attorney, curiously telegraphed their impending lawsuit for several months. From our vantage point, it seemed to be a transparent attempt to reach some sort of settlement before the lawsuit was ever filed. When UFC didn’t reportedly implement the kind of contractual clauses that Hunt wanted for future fighters caught doping, it became a game of chicken between UFC & Hunt.
Mark Hunt had no choice but to file a lawsuit against UFC & Brock Lesnar. If he didn’t, he would have lost all face in the matter. The good thing for Hunt is that the attorneys on his side are excellent at what they do and their first complaint filed in court is well-done in terms of length (27 pages) and writing style. Attorneys often fall into a trap of prosecuting their entire case in the complaint. Complaints get 60, 80, sometimes 100 pages long and leave lots of room in the motion game to get sliced & diced. The point of a complaint is to make your allegations that cover the elements in the various causes of action to prevent a motion to dismiss from succeeding without trying your whole case up front. Let the discovery & deposition provide the future evidence for you.
What to look for
In October of 2016, we previewed what Mark Hunt’s lawsuit would look like and it largely played out as predicted.
The first, naked twist in the complaint is the attempt to file suit in Federal rather than state court in Nevada. Hunt’s attorneys attempt to make this work by filing for the Federal cause of action regarding racketeering. Nevada has its own state version of racketeering which is similar. What makes the racketeering attempt look so transparent in trying to play the jurisdictional game is that Hunt filed for a conspiracy for racketeering COA on the state level but then cited the Federal RICO statute. The point is to keep this lawsuit out of state court, where there is a perceived advantage for UFC.
An additional point: Nevada’s racketeering law covers the last five years of business activity. The Federal statute covers a time period of 10 years. That certainly comes into play when you look at the era of the testosterone hall passes and the Chael Sonnen debacle with Anderson Silva as background for the plaintiff to rely upon in court for racketeering allegations.
What’s next: UFC’s first move will likely involve a motion to transfer from Federal to state court. If the case gets transferred to state court, then it’s onto a motion to dismiss or a motion to strike the causes of action. The success of that will likely be limited in scope. As the motion game plays out, the clock will begin immediately for discovery although UFC’s side will try to stall for as much time as possible with extensions (professional courtesy or court motions).
Why didn’t UFC pay Mark Hunt before this lawsuit got filed?
Now that Hunt has officially filed the lawsuit against UFC & Brock Lesnar, they really don’t have much of a choice but to settle this thing quickly and pay the attorney’s fees. Otherwise, this time bomb is going to produce terrible discovery for UFC’s side. The general public won’t get to see that discovery if it’s under seal but certainly could get a sneak peek if there are future amended complaints detailing the evidence discovered to buttress Hunt’s COAs.
And that’s the larger point here — Nevada has some great attorney-friendly causes of actions. California has some doozies like the nebulous Unfair Competition Law but the old-school unjust enrichment COA remains potent in states like Nevada and Florida. The principle is simple — if you’re profiting from ill-gotten gains, that’s unjust enrichment. Just as one can be criminally prosecuted for receiving stolen property or embezzlement/conversion, one can be sued for unjust enrichment. It’s a wide-ranging COA that really is a big, big problem for UFC.
UFC’s testosterone-era garbage left them vulnerable to doping lawsuits
They deserve everything they’re going to get in court and more for the last decade of anabolic steroid policy.
The established track record for UFC makes them extremely vulnerable in deposition. From Lorenzo Fertitta to Keith Kizer to Dr. Tim Trainor to Dr. Jeff Davidson to Marc Ratner, all of these people would be put under very uncomfortable depositions regarding who gave permission to which fighters and under which pretenses. Can you imagine the internal company memos produced during the testosterone era explosion in 2010?
None of this will likely come to fruition in reality. Maybe a 5% chance but perhaps I could be wrong. Perhaps UFC could be stupid enough to fight this out, thinking that the legal bills will mount and that Hunt will have to give up. But what if the attorneys are taking this case at a discounted rate (for publicity) or on a contingency? There’s a lot of money to make here on a settlement, let alone a trial. Sounds delicious for a trial attorney to me.
But what about Brock Lesnar?
Mark Hunt’s lawsuit is against UFC, Brock Lesnar, Dana White, and Does 1-50. Any of the parties involved can settle at any time. It would be in their best interest to do so and in a hurry.
What happens, though, if one of the parties involved doesn’t want to settle while the others settle?
The UFC made their money off of Brock Lesnar. Dana White indicated recently that Lesnar’s not likely to return to active MMA fighting. If UFC settles and leaves Lesnar on his own, what’s his leverage over them?
Which brings us the scenario that Team Hunt probably would dream of the most — Brock Lesnar racing to settle first and providing damning evidence that can be used against UFC to ramp up for a larger settlement.
The lawsuit contends that UFC made ill-gotten gains for UFC 200 because Brock Lesnar’s fight made the event such a success at a time when the company was in the process of being sold. The same company that gave Lesnar a USADA waiver that allowed him to immediately fight rather than engage in multiple months of pre-fight drug testing.
There are millions of reasons for the UFC to race to settle first before Brock Lesnar. There are also millions of reasons for Brock Lesnar to race to settle first and possibly help Team Hunt bolster their case to squeeze UFC by the balls to get more money and get the contractual provisions they wanted all along.