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Kevin Iole’s Yahoo story about UFC suing Bellator & Ken Pavia is all about Zuffa sending messages

By Zach Arnold | July 29, 2010

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When I read Kevin Iole’s Yahoo Sports article titled Zuffa sues for alleged theft of trade secrets, I initially laughed when I saw that the names in the lawsuit were Ken Pavia and Bjorn Rebney (Bellator). Bellator is fresh coming off a legal controversy over what to do with fighter Dave Herman, who claims that the promotion breached his contract with them and is now taking a booking for the upcoming Shark Fights card in Texas. The story on Sherdog, in my opinion, made Bellator look awful. Now you throw this suit by the UFC — filed in Las Vegas — and Bellator is going to have to be spending resources defending several legal fronts. None of this is good for a promotion that is trying to keep as many resources as possible in order to stay in business.

Alan Conceicao, a frequent commenter on our site, has long asked when MMA writers would take the rose-colored glasses off when covering Bellator and start to ask questions like, say, where the money is coming from to fund the promotion (given Bjorn Rebney’s past history in the boxing industry). The media tide seems to be turning against Bellator here on a few fronts.

The lawsuit being filed by Zuffa in Las Vegas is key — they don’t lose on their home turf in court. Just ask Ken Shamrock, who ended up paying $175,000 in fees to UFC after the company got a pretty favorable hometown judges’ decision in their case against Shamrock (who sued the promotion for breach of contract).

Bellator is the defendant that will get a lot of attention, but Ken Pavia is the real target here. As we’ve seen with the Jason Genet case (where he paid a settlement to the SEC), there is going to be much more scrutiny on agents in MMA who portray themselves as powerful. One thing we know about UFC and Dana White, in particular, is that they don’t like dealing with many of the agents in the business. By going after Pavia, they are laying down a marker to all agents who do business with them. By having that message come out through Kevin Iole and Yahoo, it becomes a crystal clear public message — don’t screw with us.

At the end of the day, anyone who is in the MMA business has to realize that UFC will look at them as competition — whether they are a minor-league independent regional promotion or if they are a national player. It’s the same way WWE views the competition in pro-wrestling. You squash anyone who is sloppy or who is trying to use your name to take advantage for a better business deal. In this case regarding Zuffa’s lawsuit against Ken Pavia and Bellator, UFC is trying to portray Pavia and Bellator as being sloppy in the way they handle their business. When you are dealing with a company as ruthlessly efficient as UFC in the MMA marketplace, one moment of carelessness could cost you very big.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 26 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

26 Responses to “Kevin Iole’s Yahoo story about UFC suing Bellator & Ken Pavia is all about Zuffa sending messages”

  1. Promoters aren’t the only people Zuffa considers “competition”. Any agent who represents his fighter before the UFC will be treated the same way.

  2. Ivan Trembow says:

    On the subject of agents, Dana White loves to talk about how “Hollywood agents” are scumbags and how they are unnecessary. He, of course, has a Hollywood agent for himself. That doesn’t count…

    As for the Bellator lawsuit, if the e-mails from Bjorn Rebney that are cited in the lawsuit are accurate, it’s likely to be an open-and-shut case in Zuffa’s favor. Rebney has egg on his face.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Bellator becomes competition in the eyes of Dana White when they put in championship clauses that tie down their fighters for long periods. At least that is MY opinion on things. When White can’t get what he wants, they become competition to him. If Bellator allowed the UFC to sign away Ben Askren tomorrow, they wouldn’t be competition….

    I’m not sure who this is, but he has seemed credible in the past on The UG…. MMARising owner poses an interesting question:

    “Also, since literally everyone that I’ve asked or spoken with has said that Bellator is bleeding money at an insane rate and that their future beyond Season Three is in serious question, does an incident like this – which will presumably cost a fair amount of money to fight in court (or settle outside) – kill them before their upcoming third season even starts or do they survive until they end of 2010?”

    I’m not sure if this lawsuit kills them before the 3rd season starts. But I think it definitely hurts them after the 3rd season. Lawsuits like this will scare away investors. And if Bellator can’t prove they are making money after ~36 fight cards…. AND they have the big boys costing them money in court…. I can’t see any guy who money backing them.

    But I think Zach is right here. When I first heard this news, I thought it was a Bellator issue. The more I think about it, I think Rebney was just an idiot who made it possible for the UFC to get their claws on Pavia…. Who by most accounts, is a virus to the sport.

  4. Rob Maysey says:

    If the allegations are true–who exactly is acting as an agent, and on whose behalf?

    The agent is helping the promotion draft promotional agreements? If an agent who does that, who needs an adversary?

  5. The Bronzeville Bully says:

    Im curious to how Zuffa got a hold of the emails!

  6. Marlowe says:

    This one will be interesting to follow.
    The ufc has actually done better at squashing competiton
    better then mcmahon ever did. Mcmahon only tool out week regional competitors in the 80s consolidation. White took out harder targets

  7. If you wanna pull a stunt like that, it better never comes to the light. Pavia was plain stupid for allegedly getting involved in shit like that.

  8. Rob Maysey says:

    The email allegedly sent by Pav is from July apparently. This July. If so, this can’t be about promotional agreements. Far more likely, it involves new documents related to sponsorship program.

  9. Frankie says:

    First, Kevin Iole proved he is a schill for the UFC and Yahoo needs to start considering parting ways with him. How did Iole know to request the filing at Clark County. There is no press release from Zuffa, there is no comment from anyone there. How did he know? It can only mean somebody on the inside at Zuffa prompted Iole to request it. If that is the case, he traded his integrity as a journalist in and Yahoo should cut him loose.

    As for the suit, it will be interesting to see who goes to jail for this. Unauthorized access of a computer is a criminal act, as personified in the Sarah Palin email hack case. This is a criminal act and nobody is discussing it. Somebody will go to jail for this and nobody is saying a word about this.

    Finally, Zuffa just showed everyone who they are scared of by attacking on such limited legal grounds. Its a freaking employment contract, it will never be constituted as intellectual property because they don’t own the contract solely. The fighter owns half of it. If the case proceeds and Bellator goes down financially as a result, there will be a big outcry for regulations against Zuffa under Sherman Anti-Trust Act. It seems like a silly move by Zuffa long-term because even a court victory will be a loss on a multiple levels because the Feds are going to clamp them down…and justly so.

    • IceMuncher says:

      Zuffa has a confidentiality clause in their contract, and if Pavia is getting this information as an “agent” to a fighter, then he’s bound to it as well.

      Hiring a legal team to write these contracts isn’t cheap, contract law can be tricky business. If I just finished paying hundreds of thousands to a bunch of lawyers to fine tune a contract and the terms inside it for the maximum benefit of my business needs, I don’t want my competition just stealing it wholesale. Obviously, a lack of confidentiality happens all the time, but it’s still not legal, and it takes a special kind of idiot to get caught red-handed.

      I also have no idea what Anti-Trust has to do with any of this. Elaborate please, because it I’m at a loss to see how it applies to a confidential agreement. You’re not one of those guys that thinks Zuffa contracts are illegal and couldn’t hold up in court I hope.

      Finally, we have no idea how this information was leaked. You assume it was “hacked”, but the more likely explanation is that someone was a little too liberal with the cc’s and forwarding, and it got in the hands of someone who decided to whistleblow.

  10. Nick says:


    McMahon only took out regional players? Dude, if you don’t know what you are talking about, don’t comment. McMahon beat back WCW, which was backed by Ted Turner and Turner Broadcasting. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. Zuffa has knocked out fledgling players in a developing sports promotion that has no unity or governance.

    No comparison, McMahon doused multi-billion dollar companies while Zuffa has preyed on a little mom and pops in comparison.

  11. Black Dog says:

    Iole has proven time and again that he is a tool of Dana White and the UFC. Any even slightly substantiated rumor fed to him immediately turns into a story of how wonderful UFC is (and Dana, of course), how bad Strikeforce is, how bad every other MMA organization is, etc.

    Zach, why are you even wasting your time putting Iole’s spoonfed smack up here? We all know what the guy’s gonna say before he even opens his mouth.

  12. […] tells me Zuffa is going to think otherwise. Fight Opinion’s Zach Arnold believes there’s another wrinkle in the story to consider. Bellator is the defendant that will get a lot of attention, but Ken Pavia […]

  13. Jon says:

    I don’t understand how Iole breaking a story about this means he is biased. He might have gotten a tip off from someone in Zuffa but that doesn’t mean the story is a fake and he didn’t even make any analysis of the situation to be biased.

    • He broke the story because Dana asked him to. C’mon.

      • Steve4192 says:

        That doesn’t mean it is not true.

        Hell, Bellator’s attorney came out today and CONFIRMED that Pavia passed them Zuffa documents to study/modify. The only question now is whether those documents can be considered trade secrets and/or whether that constitutes a breach of the Zuffa NDA.

        • It doesn’t. However, it doesn’t mean that its absolutely grounded in fact and an open and shut case. Really, are we going to debate Kevin Iole’s journalistic integrity re: the UFC?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          From Gross’s article:

          “Zuffa hired Donald Campbell and Colby Williams to litigate its case against Pavia and Bellator. Campbell and Williams handled proceedings for Zuffa against Randy Couture, and recently beat back a breach of contract suit filed by Ken Shamrock.

          “Don Campbell and Colby Williams are very smart and tough litigants,” said Sam Spira, who represents Couture. “They serve their client’s well and do not file frivolous complaints. If indeed the accusations in the complaint are true, Pavia may have some very serious issues to deal with. These contracts are like works of art — they are developed over time and represent thousands of hours of attorney time as well as years of business experience. They are not just your run of the mill forms.”

        • Steve4192 says:

          “Really, are we going to debate Kevin Iole’s journalistic integrity re: the UFC?”


          I concede that Iole is a Zuffa mouthpiece who regurgitates whatever Daddy Dana tells him to. I’m just saying that in this particular instance he was fed legitimate information. Zuffa did indeed file suit and Bellator’s own attorney has confirmed that Pavia did pass them Zuffa documents. The only bone of contention is the nature of documents and whether Pavia violated his Zuffa NDA.

  14. Marlowe says:

    re-read my comment. I only referred to mcmahons 80s consolidation of all the regional promoters. Wcw is outside of tha time frAme and was in 2001. At that point turner had lost control of his company through the warner merger and then was pushed out in the aol merger.

    • Chuck says:

      Well, all there was on the national front in the eighties in the US was Jim Crockett Promotions (was the dirty south for the longest time) and the AWA (Minnesota). And for the most part they stayed regional. And McMahon didn’t get all of the regional promotions. To this day Bill Watts’ Mid-South promotion is still not owned by WWE. If I’m not mistaken, that is owned by Bill Watts’ ex-wife as part of a divorce settlement. Or something like that.

    • Chuck says:

      Oh, I almost forgot. Bill Watts’ Mid-South did get eaten up by Jim Crockett, but it was never touched by McMahon, and still hasn’t.

  15. Marlowe says:

    Also you have to believe that elite xc, the ifl, affliction, etc had more working captial then any of the regional guys mcmahon took out in the 80s

  16. Rob Maysey says:

    “These contracts are like works of art — they are developed over time and represent thousands of hours of attorney time as well as years of business experience. They are not just your run of the mill forms.”

    In other words, it would take a full time attorney, over a year, at the cost of millions, to produce this contract.

    That is ridiculous, and I have no idea why Spira would say that.

  17. The UFC in this case is the pot calling the kettle black. Contracts? Seriously? They’re going to sue over copied contracts? Do you know how many lawyers copy other lawyers’ motions and pleadings every day in the legal system?? Sometimes they just legitimately hop onto other motions by simply filing “joinders.” Whatever Bellator did, how can the UFC legitimately say there are damages for that? How can contract forms being used by other organizations initiate any major threat or dollar amount lost by the UFC? Besides, the email chain reveals at the very least that Bellator did not intend to copy the contracts word for word, just to use it as a guide. People all over the country with their own MMA leagues utilize the exact same rules the UFC uses, but do they sue over that? NO. So, why are they suing Ken Pavia and Bellator. Because they would bother to support a competing model? It’s pathetic considering what the Fertittas have been up to over the years:


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