Zuffa’s legal team may be busy suing the pants off Ken Pavia, Bellator FC and internet pirates by the shipload, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an occasional lawsuit to defend against too.
Robert Joyner, formerly of MMA Payout, brings word on MMAFA.tv that Roy Jones Jr.’s Square Ring, Inc. has filed suit against Zuffa and Roy Nelson for the UFC allegedly interfering with the contractual relationship they had with Nelson.
Nelson initially entered into a relationship with RJJ and SRI when participating against Jeff Monson on the Boxing/MMA March Badness PPV, which was headlined by Roy Jones Jr. vs Omar Sheika. In his contract for the fight, SRI alleges that Nelson granted “exclusive first negotiation rights” on subsequent fights and under certain conditions the right to match any offers that Nelson received in the future.
…The suit claims that UFC VP Marc Ratner was at said event and met with Square Ring CEO John Wirt. In the process of their conversation Wirt alerted Ratner to the fact that Nelson was assisting at the event in a matching making role and also stated that Nelson was an under contract Square Ring, Inc. fighter. The case states that Ratner later met separately with Nelson while at the Primm event. After the event, in late May/early June, SRI alleges that Nelson would negotiate first with Zuffa, did not provide SRI with the opportunity to match the Zuffa offer, and would sign an exclusive promotional agreement with Zuffa. SRI alleges that all these actions violated their agreement with Nelson. SRI also alleges that bouts that Nelson participated in while competing in the TUF 10 season were also in violation of the agreement.
This suit is especially interesting considering how adamant Dana White is about not messing with other organization’s contracts. That line seemed to be blurred somewhat earlier this summer with Fedor Emelianenko while M-1 was giving Strikeforce fits, but the Fedor situation has always been far more complicated with presumably more loopholes than you would ever expect with someone like Roy Nelson. Also interesting that Marc Ratner of all UFC officials could be involved.
Square Ring is seeking damages in excess of $10,000 from both Nelson and Zuffa. If SRI’s allegations are in fact true, I’d expect this to be settled quietly. Otherwise, we”ll probably see another boastful UFC press release declaring legal victory at some point in the next 12-18 months.
Image via Sherdog
Update: The Fight Lawyer took a look at the lawsuit and breaks it down a little further. If I’m understanding this correctly, Roy Nelson may be more on the hook for this than Zuffa since he apparently got them involved in the situation.
That is, my guess is that under Zuffa’s agreements with Nelson, Nelson has agreed to indemnify Zuffa for any losses Zuffa incurs (including attorney’s fees, costs, judgments, etc.) arising from or relating to Nelson’s breach of any agreements with any other promoter, which would include all of these claims that undoubtedly arise from Nelson’s alleged breach of his agreement with SRI.
So, although people may assume that this litigation is causing Zuffa some pain (and litigation is always a hassle), I predict that Zuffa is likely to be covered for any of its expenses relating to this lawsuit and those expenses are likely to come from Nelson’s pocket — or perhaps will be offset from Nelson’s purse, as Joyner notes, he is fighting Junior Dos Santos later this week.
Update 2: Zuffa has issued a response to the lawsuit.
Zuffa claims that at the time that Nelson signed his promotional contact for The Ultimate Fighter on June 27th, 2009 he represented and warranted that he was free and clear to sign said contract and was under no other contract or option that would interfere with the performance of his Zuffa contract. Nelson’s promotional contract would kick in in the event that he was named a finalist for TUF Season 10.
Basically, Zuffa claims that Roy Nelson and his representation are to blame for the situation, not them, and they should be reimbursed by Nelson for any losses in the case. Robert Joyner has more details over at MMAFA.