Last week, Cung Le, Nate Quarry and Jon Fitch filed antitrust claims against the UFC. Several other fighters have since followed suit. In support of their original Complaint, the estranged fighters cited Dana White’s statement that the UFC was the mixed martial arts equivalent of the National Football League. “There is no competition,” White declared from pages 23 and 24 of the legal document. “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.’”
If one takes the UFC president’s promotional words at face value, it would seem rival organizations like the World Series of Fighting and Bellator have never stood a true competitive chance. Indeed, the antitrust Complaint claims Bellator is merely a “minor league.” But according to Bellator’s president Scott Coker, his organization isn’t a total failure, with no real chance for meaningful success.
“Do I think Bellator is a minor league?” Coker said. “The answer is no.”
And just like that, Coker sucked a little wind from the fighters’ litigious sails.
But the antitrust Complaint counters his optimism with the hard reality that “Bellator’s bout purses, gate revenues, attendance figures, merchandise sales, television licensing fees and ad rates are minimal compared to those obtained by the UFC.” Nonetheless, Coker, a man who might personally benefit if the UFC were winged a bit by some rogue litigation, is adamant that the lawsuit is dead wrong. No, his organization isn’t a doomed venture, an experiment in poorly planned hubris, a headfirst jump with a cracked skull into a fiery lake of burning tears.
“Labeling a league based on the past can be misleading, because the fighters that are here today fighting for us are gonna be the next Luke Rockholds, the next Daniel Cormiers,” he continued. “They’re going to be the next stars of MMA.”
Whether or not Coker believes his own words is probably inconsequential. He said them. They have been recorded on the Internet. And they represent a strong showing of moral support to the embattled UFC from its significantly weaker and allegedly competitive rival. The only question that remains is whether an experienced judge can possibly take Coker’s confident rebuttal seriously.