TKO Group Addresses UFC Antitrust Lawsuit, Set for April 15 Trial Date

Rogers Arena, UFC 289, Vancouver, Canada Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Just days after the historic UFC 300 card in April, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is looking at its biggest fight in years: an antitrust trial that is quickly approaching.

While UFC CEO Dana White and others have largely stayed silent on that front, the promotion is now housed alongside WWE under the TKO Group Holdings banner. The company recently held an earnings call for investors, which finally saw them address the matter, and reveal that they are in settlement talks while they prepare their defense.

“As we’ve always said and this is our consistent message since we started talking about this case publicly, we believe strongly that the facts and the law are on our side and we look forward, in terms of timing, to making our arguments to a jury at trial,” TKO Chief Financial Officer Andrew Schleimer stated during Tuesday’s call (h/t MMA Fighting). “But as is typical in a case like this, we’ve been engaged in private mediation simultaneously with our trial preparation. That’s what we’re prepared to comment on at this time.”

The lawsuit against the UFC is one of two it currently faces, and was brought by former fighters Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and Nate Quarry back in 2014. It alleges the promotion used monopsony powers to keep fighter pay low and dominate the MMA landscape, while coercing fighters into exclusive, restrictive contracts despite UFC athletes being considered independent contractors.

The plaintiffs are seeking up to $1.6 billion dollars in damages. The lawsuit was officially granted class certification in 2023, though a judge had ruled on the matter in 2020, only for a written ruling to be delayed in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. The class action lawsuit covers fighters with the promotion between Dec. 16, 2010, to June 30, 2017. Any fighter during that period would be eligible for any payout, settlement or otherwise.

As of February 6, 2024, zero eligible fighters had chosen to opt out of the lawsuit, per a report by Combat Sports Law. Further, while TKO Group and the UFC may be in settlement talks, there’s a question as to whether those behind the lawsuit would be willing to settle, given the fighters involved and their desire to see meaningful change in the sport.