Judge Premature to Rule Nate Quarry Out of Lawsuit | Forbes
Paul Gift analyzes recent ruling in class-action antitrust lawsuit
In February, the UFC moved to have Nate Quarry, one of six former fighter plaintiffs in a class-action antitrust lawsuit – and perhaps the suit’s figurehead – removed from the case by partial summary judgment.
The UFC argued that Quarry’s claims of identity expropriation and suppression of payments for merchandise and promotional materials were time barred, noting that the most recent agreement “of any kind” between Quarry and the UFC was signed on January 13, 2010, 11 months prior to the December 16, 2010 four-year cutoff of the statute of limitations.
On Tuesday, Judge Richard Boulware issued an unsurprising ruling denying the UFC’s motion as “premature,” essentially signaling that the fight over the fighters’ monopoly broth argument will take place next year.
In their attempt to keep Quarry in the case, the fighters asserted that his harm arose from the UFC's “anticompetitive scheme as a whole,” injuring him each time the overall scheme exploited his identity rights, including within the statute of limitations.
It’s not the first time the fighters have made such a claim. In opposing the UFC’s 2015 motion to dismiss, they argued that the promotion’s alleged exclusionary conduct involving exclusive contracts with fighters, sponsors, venues and television networks should be considered “as a whole” instead of each component separately. The cumulative effect is foreclosure of competition, they claimed.
In boxing, Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions recently got slammed by a California federal judge on similar claims that bigtime manager and Premier Boxing Champions creator Al Haymon’s exclusive contracts with television networks and alleged venue blocking attempts were anticompetitive, citing “numerous” alternative channels and no evidence for venue blocking.
In an interview with SB Nation’s Bloody Elbow, former FTC commissioner Josh Wright expressed skepticism about monopoly broth arguments, calling them the “kitchen sink” approach to pleading and noting, “My experience has been that these arguments glomming together several different pieces of conduct to make a single antitrust violation usually reveal, after the facts are collected and the analysis completed, that the reason for the hodgepodge approach is that none of the individual arguments is very strong.”
I’ve noted in the past that the fighters’ case is likely in trouble if their “as a whole” argument is rejected. The idea of foreclosing rival MMA promotions through exclusive contracts with certain sponsors, venues or television networks is borderline ridiculous when examined individually. Foreclosure via long-term exclusive contracts with MMA fighters at least has possible merit, and will be tackled by each side’s economic expert witnesses over the next few months.
As an important part of both the fighters’ overall antitrust case against the UFC and their position as to why Quarry’s identity claims should not be barred by the statute of limitations, it appears Judge Boulware decided it best to wait and handle the “as a whole” argument on all fronts after each side’s experts have weighed in and the full set of summary judgment motions have been filed.
That day will be here soon enough. As currently scheduled, the summary judgment hearing should take place in fall 2018, and it could easily be a critical day for this historic case in the MMA industry.
In addition to the Quarry ruling earlier this week, on Wednesday the fighters notified the Court of an agreement with Top Rank and the UFC on Top Rank’s production of boxing documents and the deposition of its president Bob Arum. Specifics of the agreement were redacted in their entirety.
Authored by Paul Gift