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Ex-UFC fighters C.B. Dollaway, Kajan Johnson file new lawsuit against UFC and Endeavor

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C.B, Dollaway
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A new lawsuit led by ex-UFC fighters C.B. Dollaway and Kajan Johnson has been filed in federal district court in Nevada against the UFC and the company’s primary owner, Endeavor Group Holdings.

According to Berger-Montague, one of the law firms representing the fighters, the new filing is similar to the ongoing class-action lawsuit led by fighters such as Cung Le, Nate Quarry, Jon Fitch and Kyle Kingsbury.

“The lawsuit filed by Johnson and Dollaway alleges that Zuffa violated antitrust laws by paying UFC fighters far less than they were entitled to receive and eliminating or hurting other MMA promoters,” representatives of the lawsuit said in a statement. “The class period ultimately proposed by the plaintiffs in the Le action closed on June 30, 2017. Plaintiffs Johnson and Dollaway bring this case on behalf of those like themselves who fought in a bout promoted by the UFC on or after July 1, 2017.”

Back in December 2020, Judge Richard F. Boulware, a U.S. District Court Judge for Nevada, indicated that the court would grant class certification to the fighters seeking damages against the UFC in the lawsuit previously filed. That would mean the number of potential plaintiffs would increase from the initial fighters named in the lawsuit to “all persons who competed in one or more live professional UFC-promoted MMA bouts taking place or broadcast in the United States from Dec. 16, 2010 to June 30, 2017.”

Fighters in that time period have the choice to opt in or out of the lawsuit if the class is certified.

“By filing this action, we are bringing the proposed class period forward to also cover all fighters who competed in bouts between June 30, 2017 and the present,” Eric L. Cramer, one of the lead attorneys working on the lawsuit, said in a statement.

Much like the previous lawsuit, the new filing alleges the UFC and Endeavor engaged in several anti-competitive practices that ultimately hurts the athletes including:

1 ) Locking fighters into long-term, exclusive contracts which, the fighters say, prevents them from competing elsewhere;

2 ) Using its market dominance to coerce fighters to re-sign contracts, allegedly making the contracts effectively perpetual and preventing fighters from reaching free agency; and

3 ) Acquiring and then closing down other MMA promoters that threatened the UFC’s dominance.

The accusations against the UFC allege that because the promotion was acting as a monopoly (where a single seller of goods and services controls the market) and a monopsony (where a single buyer of goods and services controls the market), wages for MMA fighters were stifled and kept low. The previous lawsuit presented evidence that fighters in the UFC typically only share in about 20 percent of the revenue generated by the promotion, which is far less than athletes competing in other major sports leagues such as the NFL or NBA, where the revenue sharing is around 50 percent.

“We train hard and risk our bodies to succeed in this sport,” Dollaway said in a statement. “Every time we step into that octagon, we leave a piece of ourselves behind.

“The UFC should have to pay us competitive compensation for our services, just like professional athletes in other sports get paid based on competitive markets.”

Dollaway fought in 20 bouts for the UFC between 2008 and 2018, while Johnson was on the roster from 2014 to 2018. During his time in the UFC, Johnson was an outspoken advocate for fighters’ rights and joined Project Spearhead’s efforts to organize them.

While Judge Boulware previously indicated that he intended to give the original lawsuit class certification, no official filing has been made yet, and that keeps everything on hold for now. It’s very likely the UFC would then file an appeal to the class certification. That could potentially tie up the lawsuit for several years as it winds its way through the court system.

The law firms representing the fighters are Berger Montague PC, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, The Joseph Saveri Law Firm, Inc., Kemp Jones LLP, and Warner Angle Hallam Jackson & Formanek PLC.