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Penny-wise, pound-foolish: UFC’s doping lawsuit from hell should have been settled months ago

By Zach Arnold | January 11, 2017

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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.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 19 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

19 Responses to “Penny-wise, pound-foolish: UFC’s doping lawsuit from hell should have been settled months ago”

  1. Chris says:

    Good stuff Zach. As always.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    It is amazing how bad WME has started. Hunt Lawsuit, GSP Lawsuit, Increased Union talks, champions delaying fights, cancelled events, and promoting only one fighter in a main event.

    They just don’t seem to get it right now.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Struve is out of his fight with JDS. That card is looking like absolute junk right now.

    Completely falling apart…

    • Diaz's packed bowl says:

      Its even money FN 103 will be the third event cancelled this year, so far. Means less paychecks and “sponsor money” for the fighters. Expect to see a 10-20% reduction in fighters come summer time. An increased focus on Page and Sage via UFC spin off show/shows such as cooking with sage, and punchin’ and pimpin’ with Page.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        Nothing would shock me with WME. They just made Khabib vs. Ferguson for the Interim title, despite the fact that the champion is healthy and going to fight within 9 months of his last title defense.

        Absolute circus.

        • Zach Arnold says:

          The larger issue here is WME retaining UFC fighters. Their reliance on interim titles is becoming a bigger crutch. The fact that managers/agents are allowing their fighters to agree to these phony champion’s clauses is absolute malpractice and the fastest way to kill free agency rights.

        • Safari_Punch says:

          McGregor is publicly stating that he wants a piece of the company. It doesn’t appear like ownership is interested in giving him a slice of the pie. There was talk of Conor facing Khabib in his home country for the title and I guess this is the next big thing for his home town fans.

          To me it looks like they are trying to force Conor to face Khabib down the road to strip credibility and control away from him as he is a bad stylistic matchup.

          To tie this into Zach’s comment, Conor could call an audible and instead of talking about Floyd Mayweather all the time, turn his focus to talking about joining the fighter’s union. He has more pull than anyone right now. The only problem is which one does he sign with? The Jeff Borris lead group seems the most legit in terms of what they have done in the past with MLB. Maybe Floyd Mayweather even brings up how the Ali every time TMZ sticks a camera in his face. Conor and Floyd could tag-team the UFC in the media and force the pressure on WME/UFC.

      • Diaz's packed bowl says:

        Yeah I hadn’t thought of that until now. Interim titles for top UFC fighters who could be actual champions elsewhere Holloway, Aldo, Ferg, or Khabib to keep them from jumping ship.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    White is saying he would pay both Floyd and Connor $25 Million each to fight each other and then split the PPV revenues….

    I have a better chance of becoming UFC Champion then those two fighting under either boxing or MMA rules.

    • Diaz's packed bowl says:

      Since 45 has 0 chance of being a champ at anything. There is a real good chance this happens. The new boss wants this bad, 50/50 split on the ppv plus another 10-20 mil upfront and its done. Just the build up on all forms of media will keep 50% of WM clients employed. Not to mention after the fight they’ll be talking about it for a month. Also Connor has a decent shot at winning via KO which would just be huge, excuse me YUGE!

      • Chuck says:

        Would any state athletic commissions allow a Mayweather/McGregor fight to happen? Either style of fight would look like a total mismatch on paper (because of the guys’ records, and lack of records too). Remember the Tim Sylvia/Ray Mercer fight? New Jersey nixed that fight because Tim Sylvia has no boxing matches (pro or amateur) so the fight had to be taken to I think Alabama. Where it turned into an MMA match (which Mercer won with extreme vengeance).

        It would probably have to be designated an exhibition match I would assume.

  5. King Famous says:

    When WME looks at this calendar year, Floyd/Mac is something they need at this point.

  6. jim allcorn says:

    When the Mayweather vs CMac bout was first mentioned, I thought that the chances of it ever occurring were absolutely nil, but now?
    Not so much.
    Floyd is very much interested in making the fight & now that Dana has altered his position from absolutely scoffing at the idea to now offering to promote it himself at 25 mil apiece, I think the doors now wide open. Now it’s just a matter of the new regime at the UFC becoming open to the idea of co-promoting ( something that Zuffa was hardline about not ever doing ) & coming up with the sort of purse $$$ that both fighters will be satisfied with.
    There’s a lot to be ironed out, but now, I fully expect to see the contest come off sometime in the last two quarters of 2017.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I would still be shocked if it happened.

      But if it did… Mayweather might be in trouble. He will be 40 in a month. And the lighter weights are a young man’s game.

      • Diaz's packed bowl says:

        No matter who wins there are no negatives to this fight to either fighter. Mc Gregor Diaz II set the mold. Split the first two fights and Mayweather McGregor III is the big BIG money fight We’re talking a billion dollar franchise here.

  7. Nepal says:

    I don’t really see Dana or his new bosses doing this. If Conner makes $25M plus PPV points, he’ll never fight again in the UFC for a paltry $5M or whatever he gets per fight.

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