A group of former fighters have been granted class certification in a nearly decade-old lawsuit alleging the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship illegally suppressed wages.
The group of more than 1,200 fighters who competed between December 2010 and June 2017 is seeking between $800 million and $1.6 billion.
In an order issued Wednesday as the next step in an antitrust case first filed in 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Franklin Boulware II of Nevada ruled that lawyers for the plaintiffs had cleared the bar to proceed with certification.
Boulware had previously indicated he would grant certification nearly three years ago, but the order has now been officially filed. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue the UFC abused its dominance in the mixed martial arts market to eliminate competition, in part to limit opportunities for fighters.
It’s just one step in a case that has the potential to drag on for years, but one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys expressed pleasure with the ruling in a post on social media.
“Thrilled to announce that the court in the UFC case has certified the class of MMA fighters,” Eric Cramer wrote. “We look forward to demonstrating our allegations that the UFC has abused its market power to suppress fighter pay before a jury in Las Vegas.”
The UFC plans to appeal the ruling, which could have essentially ended the case had it gone the other way.
“This is just one step in a long legal process,” UFC lead attorney William A. Isaacson said in a statement. “We are confident that the Court will ultimately recognize that the claims outlined in this lawsuit are legally and factually meritless.”
A ruling has yet to be made in another suit that covers fighters who competed after June 2017. Boulware did rule against class certification for a suit that seeks name, image and likeness rights for fighters.
No date has been set for a trial, but a status conference has been set for Aug. 21.