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UFC Antitrust Investigation Update – Sort Of

When the UFC purchased Strikeforce, we discussed how the transaction did not create a monopoly, and when the Culinary Union implored the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Zuffa, we examined the not-so-finer points of their letter.  Therefore, the Economist’s article today on these things is ground we’ve already tread upon.  But when it comes to holy gospel, it goes from God to the Economist to us (and sometimes God just lifts stuff from the Economist to give to us), so it’s worth talking about it all again.

Titled “Competition in Mixed Martial Arts: Ultimate Trust-Busting Championship”, the article starts off by mentioning the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which was enacted in 2000 to curb some of the evils that plagued the boxing industry from within.  Of course, MMA is not boxing, and currently the Muhammad Ali Act doesn’t apply to our beloved sport.  (Cue dramatic music crescendo.)  Yet. 

The article then produces the dirt!

[The] UFC has been known to “lock out” fighters over contractual disputes.  In 2008, for example, [the] UFC cut Jon Fitch, an MMA welterweight, who complained about having to sign a lifetime contract for the use of his likeness in video games.  He was only brought back into the fold after accepting the company’s terms.

But wait, there’s more! 

In fact, [the] UFC may already be the subject of an FTC antitrust investigation.  Although the commission does not acknowledge its investigations until they have been completed, rival fight promoters say they have answered requests from the FTC for information about [the] UFC.  The $40 million Strikeforce deal fell below the $66 million threshold for an FTC investigation.  But the commission could have launched one retroactively if it found evidence of abuse of monopoly power.  Mr. White has ducked questions about antitrust concerns, saying only that “there are a lot of people coming after us and taking shots at us.”

Good heavens, this “UFC thing” might be evil!  Quick!  Kill it with fire!  Or, short of fire, kill it with a modification of the Muhammed Ali Act.

If [the] UFC’s many rivals fail to weaken it through the executive branch, they can always turn to the legislature.  It would take just a slight tweaking of the Muhammad Ali Act to expand it to MMA as well, which would give fighters like Mr. Fitch more leverage in dealing with the company.  John McCain, the senator who sponsored the Muhammad Ali Act, remains in office.  He should probably expect a call from anti-UFC lobbyists sometime soon.

And there you have it, the Economist’s quick glance at the UFC and its ills and woes.  Did we learn anything?

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