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MMAAA responds to cease-and-desist demand from lawyers in UFC antitrust case

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The Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association has issued a strongly worded response to a group representing fighters in an ongoing antitrust lawsuit in what has turned into a public tug-of-war between groups seeking to represent fighters' collective interests.

In response to last week's announcement of the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association's formation, the counsel for the group involved in an ongoing anti-trust lawsuit against the UFC sent the MMAAA a cease-and-desist letter addressed to the MMAAA's Bjorn Rebney, expressing concerns the new fighters association's actions would harm the ongoing litigation.

The letter sent to the MMAAA from Eric Cramer and Michael Dell'Angelo of Berger & Montague, Benjamin Brown and Richard Koffman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, and Joseph Saveri, obtained by Bloody Elbow, states that Rebney and others involved with MMAAA met with them a year ago, asking to be part of the antitrust lawsuit and wanting a share of the potential payout.

Tuesday afternoon, the MMAAA sent out a strongly worded press release refuting the claims made by the other group. The statement, in full:

"As Georges St-Pierre, Donald Cerrone, T.J. Dillashaw, Tim Kennedy, and Cain Velasquez made clear in the official public announcement last week, the Mixed Martial Arts Athlete Association ("MMAAA") is all about looking out for the fighters and their well-being long-term.

Yesterday, the MMAAA received a "cease and desist" letter from a group of lawyers seeking to stop the MMAAA from signing up fighters and sticking up for their rights against the UFC and its owners WME-IMG.  The MMAAA will do no such thing.  Those lawyers -€” who represent only a few fighters -€” are focused on getting some money out of one case, of which they seek a significant portion for themselves.  Those lawyers do not speak for anyone else, and certainly not the MMAAA and all the fighters the organization represents now and will quickly grow to represent in the sport.

Over a year ago, those same lawyers reached out to the MMAAA to join forces with us.  We had a meeting and made clear that the MMAAA's primary focus would be on achieving three core goals: 1) substantially increasing UFC fighter pay to 50%; 2) securing all-encompassing long term benefits for UFC fighters; and 3) a settlement to compensate past and current UFC fighters for all of the UFC's wrongs.  To achieve these goals for the benefit of the fighters, we also made clear the MMAAA needed to receive a percentage of a monetary settlement to cover the costs to fund the MMAAA for staffing and attorneys both for past work getting to this point and the long fight ahead.  The lawyers made clear that they did not share the MMAAA's vision.  They are focused on a short-term monetary recovery, of which they will seek 33%, and then they are gone from this sport.  We parted ways at that point.

The MMAAA is all about the fighters benefitting when the UFC is finally forced to take a powerful group of the fighters seriously.  The MMAAA will be executing on that plan and will not be stopped in this effort on behalf of fighters."

The class-action lawsuit, filed in December 2014 in Northern California on behalf of former UFC fighters such as Cung Le, Nate Quarry, and Jon Fitch, alleges the UFC engaged in unlawful antitrust practices. The case remains pending.