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UFC sues Randy Couture

By Zach Arnold | January 15, 2008

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According to The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Zuffa LLC (the parent company of UFC) filed a lawsuit on Monday against Randy Couture in Clark County District Court.

UFC claims that Couture’s statements about the company last year caused ‘irreparable damage’ and that he breached his UFC contract.

This is alluding to the fact that Couture now has a camp-based team in the IFL. (Nothing seems to anger Dana more than the IFL, does it?)

If anyone can provide me with the case number of this civil suit, please let me know (as I would be interested in keeping track of legal developments).

Topics: IFL, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 62 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

62 Responses to “UFC sues Randy Couture”

  1. David M says:

    I think in this situation, the contract will be deemed unconscionable and thrown out, which could theoretically free Couture up as soon as the court case finishes. There was a similar situation like 75 years ago before Jack Dempsey fought Gene Tunney; the former (if memory serves me) was under contract to one promoter but split to fight Tunney, a much bigger fight. The promoter tried to get an injunction to stop the fight from taking place but he was denied.

    I really see this unfolding as such: Judge finds contract to be completely unfair, invalidates it due to unconscionability of champion’s clause and other factors (difference in bargaining power, UFC’s ability to terminate any time, etc) and there won’t be a no-compete clause honored, because she will trash the whole contract.

    Some of you are saying however that UFC isn’t suing Randy over his fight contract, in which case he may just wait it out. I don’t think in a field like fighting, given his age and the shortness of fight careers, that a judge would hold him out of the ring (the only way he can make a living) for very long. Anything beyond a 6 month no compete clause being enforced would be completely shocking to me. I’m just a 1L though, so the actual lawyers on here probably know much more about this than I do.

  2. The Gaijin says:

    I think we’re all in agreement that the “no compete (forever) clauses” and “champion’s clauses” (perpetuity of employment) would be tossed out by the courts. But to the best of my understanding this lawsuit isn’t taking issue with that, it’s about the use of Couture’s name (XC) by IFL and a few other issues (I believe conspiring to usurp his employment contract – a contract that deals with his outside of the ring duties (i.e. announcing, promotions & PR etc)).

    There’s a reason why, imho, they wouldn’t be suing him with respect to his fight contract:

    *At this point they are operating on the front that the contract is good – so why dispute it’s effectiveness?

    *He’s not set up to fight for another promotion, so he’s not “hurting them” in any way – but the second there’s an announcement he’s fighting somewhere else (i.e. HDNet, M-1) the UFC will jump to action to enforce the provisions of the contract. But at this time Randy is out of the spotlight, losing fan support and “name value” and most importantly – losing time, which could give them more leverage in bargaining.

    *If they went ahead and fought over the enforcement of the contract before they absolutely have to, they are risking setting a precedent in court which would most likely apply all current and future contracts. If they are hit with an unfavourable ruling it could have a very negative effect on fighter negotiations and the make-up of their roster.

  3. Chuck says:

    I think some are forgetting here that with civil court (note to cyphron, I may not be a lawyer, but I was a criminal justice major, so I know a little about this stuff. hey, you’re not a fighter and you talk about fighting, right?) not everything is cut-and-dry and has “winners” and “losers” in a clear-cut way. What can happen is Zuffa is successful in beating Couture in court for breach of contract, but the judge can still rule the resign clause to be ridiculous and to exterminate it. It would be a ruling with modifications. But modifications usually come around in appeals. And Couture can appeal as many times as given to him.

    Actually, this case might be too ripe (yes, it’s a legal term. Means too early. Opposite of mootness, which is too late and “a moot point”.) because Couture didn’t fight outside of anything Zuffa related, nor did he appear on IFL or anything like that.

    And I have to agree that these UFC contracts are too one-sided. They are probably worse than TNA wrestling and Ring Of Honor wrestling contracts. And people wonder why there will never be unions and possibly pension plans in the fight and wrestling industry… Let’s hope the GPWA in Japan gets in full force.

  4. Dedwyre says:

    After skimming through the comments and avoiding anything with deep law school terms that may as well be Italian to me, I think I have to agree with 45 Huddle that Zuffa had little choice but to sue. As much as I hate lawsuits and having to hear about them, they need to do something to keep other fighters from thinking they can skip out on their contracts.

  5. Dave2 says:

    “And I have to agree that these UFC contracts are too one-sided. They are probably worse than TNA wrestling and Ring Of Honor wrestling contracts. And people wonder why there will never be unions and possibly pension plans in the fight and wrestling industry… Let’s hope the GPWA in Japan gets in full force.”

    How do TNA and ROH contracts compare to WWE contracts? I haven’t followed pro wrestling in the past few years so I can’t say I know much about their contracts. What I do know is that WWE wrestlers are basically treated like circus animals.

  6. Ivan Trembow says:

    It’s interesting to note, as MMAPayout’s Adam Swift has, that Zuffa’s lawsuit against Couture only mentions his employment contract with Zuffa (ie, commentating duties), not his promotional contract (ie, fighting). Even though all of Zuffa’s public statements up to this point have been all about the fighting contract, the lawsuit itself doesn’t allege that he breached his fighting contract, it only alleges that he breached his employment/commentating contract.

    And by Zuffa’s own admission in the lawsuit, he does have the right to resign from his employment contract and then work elsewhere following a one-year period from the date of his resignation, so that would only tie him up contractually through October 2008, which is the date that Couture has been publicly citing all along as the date when he believes he’ll be contractually free and clear from the UFC. According to the detailed article by Adam Swift, there is nothing in the lawsuit talking about the promotional contract (ie, the fighting contract) at all, which would mean that there’s nothing in the lawsuit disputing that October 2008 timeframe.

    What is in the lawsuit, however, is Zuffa’s attempt to get an injunction that would serve as a temporary restraining order to prevent Couture from “competing with the UFC” during that time period, and that would include fighting for any other organization. We’ve known for months that Zuffa’s legal position is that they’re going to do everything in their power to prevent him from ever fighting for another organization, so ultimately what they want here is a temporary injunction leading to a more long-term injunction.

    By only focusing on the commentating contract and not the fighting contract in this initial lawsuit, what they’ve done is basically make a strategic decision to try to attain their end-goal here (which is an injunction preventing Couture from fighting anywhere else), without having to actually claim or prove a breach of contract on his actual fighting contract. If a judge agrees with the case that they’ve laid out, they could theoretically get an injunction that prevents Couture from fighting without ever even directly challenging his right to fight elsewhere after a certain date.

    The reason this is vitally important is because it gives them the chance to potentially get what they’re ultimately seeking (an injunction that prevents Couture from fighting elsewhere) without having the legally questionable aspects of their fighting contracts potentially thrown out of court. (In particular, the de-facto no-compete-clause-for-life would likely never hold up in any court, and the so-called champion’s clause would be unlikely to hold up in court very well, either, since it didn’t hold up very well in the BJ Penn lawsuit.)

    If they had sued Couture directly on the basis of a claimed breach of contract on his promotional/fighting contract, then they’d be seeking what they ultimately want, but they’d be doing so at the risk of getting some of their key contractual clauses thrown out of court and declared invalid, which would affect a lot of other UFC contracts.

    By only suing on the basis of the employment/commentating contract for now, they’re still seeking the injunction that they ultimately want, but without the risk of having to put the aforementioned contractual clauses under legal scrutiny.

    I would expect that when or if anything goes poorly for Zuffa’s side in this legal case, or it looks like there’s a good chance they’re not going to be getting the injunction that they’re seeking via this particular lawsuit, then at that point you can expect another lawsuit to be filed with the full gamut of legal claims about Couture’s actual fighting contract. What has happened up to this point has essentially just been a gamble to see if they can get that injunction without having to subject all of their fighter contractual clauses to legal scrutiny.

  7. IceMuncher says:

    “It doesn’t matter if he controls only 10% of the company. His public behavior is atrocious as a spokesman for the UFC. He needs to keep his professionalism and his ego in check. It’s one thing to be a potty mouth but the way he talks about his employees, the fans, the internet mma media, agents and just about everyone and everything else is very sleazy. Dana White is a 12 year old boy in a 38 year old man’s body with the fits he throws. The fact that he is only a 10% owner is irrelevant when pointing out his unprofessional and immature conduct as the company president.”

    Actually, he handles himself very well in public appearances. It’s the small-exposure media that gets the full Dana, and even that isn’t so bad. Granted, the malcontent hardcore fans get riled up over comments like “Fedor is a farce” and “Nobody cares about Josh Barnett” but the rest of the public doesn’t care. Anytime I see him on ESPN, or getting interviewed on CBS, Dennis Miller, etc, he comes off very well.

  8. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Chuck, I think you may have ripe and moot backwards.

    Or, it’s too early for my brain to be working.

  9. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Ivan, they’re not going to sue him over his fight contract unless he tries to fight.

    He’s not trying to fight yet, he’s “injured.”

    The questions in this case are going to be entirely limited to Couture’s name and face being associated with the IFL when they’re contractually restricted to use promoting the UFC.

    There’s other stuff, but it’s all background noise that won’t be included in the decision.

    UFC is going to win this case walking away.

  10. Chuck says:

    “Chuck, I think you may have ripe and moot backwards.

    Or, it’s too early for my brain to be working.”

    Hehehe. Naw, I got them right. Ripe is basically too early to do anything. Ripeness would be like me suing someone because they have a cracked sidewalk outside their house, but I (nor anyone else) didn’t fall and injure myself because of it. Since nothing happened, it’s ripe. Mootness (as in a “moot point”) is too late. Like let’s say I applied to attend university, and everything was in order (I applied in time, my grades were great, etc.) but I didn’t get it. I claim racial discrimination, I take them too court, and the school then says “fuck it” and let’s me in. Fast forward a few years, it’s my second to last semester there, but I am STILL taking them to court for it. It would get thrown out because it’s moot. Why should they still be sued if they did the right thing and let me in? And all of this comes back to the issue of standing, which is your right to sue in a given situation. I don’t think Zuffa has the standing quite yet, this is still too ripe of a case. Yeah, I know a lot about standing, mootness, and ripeness. I got an A in Environmental Law and Policy (even though I am a Republican) and standing, mootness, and ripeness are a big thing in Environmental law.

    “How do TNA and ROH contracts compare to WWE contracts? I haven’t followed pro wrestling in the past few years so I can’t say I know much about their contracts. What I do know is that WWE wrestlers are basically treated like circus animals.”

    WWE has guaranteed dates and downside guarantee pay for their contracted wrestlers. TNA and ROH do not (I bet TNA’s higher stars do). ROH and TNA even though they let their wrestlers wrestle for some indy companies, they dictate WHERE you can and can not wrestle. So if you are a TNA or ROH guy, and you aren’t used by either company for whatever reason (this is the reason Jerry Lynn left TNA) for a month (four TNA Impact! tapings) then you skip out on a month’s pay. Oh, and TNA has a weird policy on if a wrestler of theirs gets injured and needs surgery then TNA will pay for it but the wrestler would have to pay it back. Reason why Konnan and Ron Killings left last year (but Killings came back, but he left again). I don’t think medical insurance works like that, but there you go. Oh, I should mention I am a big TNA and ROH fan, but not WWE (but my big hankering is of course New japan, NOAH, etc. other Japanese feds). Oh, and the pay scale of wrestlers in TNA is shitty.

  11. Joe says:

    Bettman is a loser and the worst commissioner ever.

  12. Ivan Trembow says:

    Jeremy— The injunction that they’re seeking would also prevent Couture from fighting elsewhere, and the time period on that could be for more than one year if they demonstrate a breach of contract. So while the current lawsuit itself isn’t specifically alleging a breach of his fighting contract, it is attempting to limit his ability to fight elsewhere nonetheless. Just an indirect way of doing it because there’s less risk involved this way.


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