One of Dana White’s main functions as UFC President is to promote the company. And given the nature of his business, he’s probably, at least to some degree, intentionally crafted his persona to appeal to the clientele. As a result, he’s succeeded in being brash, and even vulgar at times. He can do that, because he’s running an organization that prides itself on being “as real as it gets.” But his tendency towards emotive exaggeration is being turned against him in the Antitrust lawsuit that was filed by Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch on Tuesday.
In their Antitrust Class Action Complaint and Demand for a Jury Trial, the parties parade White’s organizational pride as evidence that the UFC is wielding monopoly and monopsony power over the mixed martial arts marketplace. For instance, it reads, “By 2010, as a result of the anticompetitive conduct alleged herein, defendant Zuffa’s President, Dana White, boasted that it had essentially eliminated all of its competition. White publicly proclaimed that, within the sport of MMA: ‘There is no competition. We’re the NFL. You don’t see people looking at the NFL and going, ‘Yeah, but he’s not the best player in the world because there’s a guy playing for the Canadian Football League or the Arena League over here.’ We’re the NFL. There is no other guy.’”
The document continues, “The UFC has publicly touted its success in using the scheme alleged in this Complaint to squash its competition. For example, in November 2008, following the UFC’s acquisition of the assets of MMA Promotion companies International Fight League (“IFL”), Elite Xtreme Combat (“EliteXC”), and Affliction Entertainment (“Affliction”), UFC President Dana White uploaded a pre-bout video blog to YouTube in which he held up the following mock tombstone prominently displaying the letters “RIP” as well as the logos and “dates of death” of the those MMA Promoters—IFL, EliteXC and Affliction. Each promotion had been put out of business by the UFC’s anticompetitive conduct.”
They even included the picture, adding, “After reading off the names of the MMA Promotion companies that the UFC had eliminated through the conduct alleged herein, White took credit for their demise, proclaiming, “I’m the grim reaper, motherf***ers.”
The Complaint even references a Twitter exchange between White and a fan.“White boastfully responded on Twitter to a fan of the acquired and shuttered Pride Fighting Championships promotion by stating: @RBL78 pride is dead dummy! I killed em!!!”
Finally, the three litigious musketeers cite a 2010 interview with MMA Junkie, wherein Dana said, “There was a time when it [competition in the MMA industry] was neck-and-neck. That time is over. There were times when we were in dogfights, but everybody needs to just concede and realize we’re the [expletive] NFL. Period. End of story.”
It’s comical, to some degree, reading this ironic parade of UFC advertising horribles in a legal document. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword, especially when your heart is being stabbed with your own blood-red Bic Cristal. But will turning an exaggerated mirror on the UFC President be effective? In isolation, of course not. Because publicity campaigns are by nature adventures in promotional puffery, and the Court system isn’t easily fooled by clever turns of tongue. What will matter is the hard evidence, and whether there is actual tangible proof that the UFC has engaged in an anticompetitive scheme that amounts to a monopoly. Proving that while organizations like Bellator and the World Series of Fighting are hosting events is going to be tricky.
In the meantime, seeing Dana holding a Styrofoam tombstone is a United States District Court pleading is at least good for a laugh.