And so it begins.
Just a week into its inception, the new fighter collective MMAAA has started to be involved in arduous legal matters. Today, the group sent out a press release stating that they had “received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from a group of lawyers seeking to stop the MMAAA from signing up fighters and sticking up for their rights against the UFC and its owners WME-IMG. The MMAAA will do no such thing. Those lawyers — who represent only a few fighters — are focused on getting some money out of one case, of which they seek a significant portion for themselves.
“Those lawyers do not speak for anybody else, and certainly not the MMAAA and all the fighters the organisation represents now and will quickly go to represent in the sport.”
Here is the majority of the release pic.twitter.com/M3DFZpKys3
— Mike Dyce (@mikedyce) December 7, 2016
While the release states the group of lawyers had previous meetings with the MMAAA, it does not specify which group of lawyers the letter was sent from. However, BloodyElbow.com appear to have obtained the message in question. They are reporting that those involved in the current UFC Class Action antitrust suit (a separate legal case against the MMA promotion that claims it is a monopoly) are behind the letter.
That document itself offers an interesting perspective on the role of the MMAAA, and particularly that of former Bellator promoter Bjorn Rebney, whose involvement with the fighter collective has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism.
In the letter, the UFC Class Action antitrust counsel reportedly stated to the MMAAA that by starting a rival collective and fighter cause against the UFC, they were only benefitting the promotion by causing a split amongst athletes in regards to which cause they should join.
“As you must be aware, establishing a rival group that attempts to recover for identical alleged past harms would only benefit Zuffa, presenting it with the option of paying the lowest bidder to resolve fighters’ claims,” BloodyElbow quotes the document as saying. “Your actions could also damage our efforts, through the UFC Class Action, to seek a binding court order putting an end to certain of Zuffa’s alleged anticompetitive misconduct in furtherance of the goal of creating a more competitive landscape for the sport, benefitting MMA fighters and fans alike. As you must be aware, the fighters are better off united than divided, and thus your attempts to sow division operate to no one’s advantage but Zuffa’s.”
Even more dramatic turn of events, the letter references the meeting between the two parties last year, and writes:
“Worse, as we both know—but which you have failed to disclose publicly—you, your investors, and your legal team had previously sought to be included in our efforts to prosecute the UFC Class Action—as long as you and your investors could share in any recovery.
“Indeed, well after the UFC Class Action was underway, at the invitation of Ken Pavia, Class Counsel agreed to attend an October 15, 2015, meeting with you (as the former CEO of Bellator), representatives of Creative Artists Agency (“CAA”), Mr. Pavia and your lawyers at the offices of CAA in New York.”
Should that narrative be true, what it appears to show is that Rebney and representatives of CAA (WME/IMG’s biggest rival in talent agency) were interested in getting involved with the UFC Class Action antitrust suit before a disagreement in terms caused them to move on separately with the MMAAA.
It raises questions about the nature of CAA’s involvement in proceedings, and could give credence to the theory that they’re looking to harm WME/IMG via attacking the UFC.