27 Mar

UFC and plaintiffs reach $335 million settlement in class action fighter pay cases, pending court approval

The class action lawsuits against the UFC that many believed would shake the foundation of the business of mixed martial arts appear to be coming to a close. It was announced on Wednesday that the two class action antitrust suits (Le vs. Zuffa and Johnson vs. Zuffa) had reached a settlement of $335 million.

That $335 million amount will be split among the fighters who participated in UFC fights during periods covering both suits — Le vs. Zuffa covering 2010 to 2017 and Johnson vs. Zuffa covering the period after 2017 — after any fees are paid to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Initially filed as five separate lawsuits between December 2014 and March 2015, the cases were merged into the Le vs. Zuffa case, with the Johnson vs. Zuffa case being filed in 2021.

“On March 13, 2024, TKO reached an agreement to settle all claims asserted in both class action lawsuits (Le and Johnson) for an aggregate amount of $335 million payable by the Company and its subsidiaries in installments over an agreed-upon period of time,” a TKO statement to the SEC reads. “The terms will be memorialized in a long form agreement and then submitted to the court for approval. The Company anticipates that the settlement amount will be deductible for tax purposes.”

The antitrust suits, which claimed the UFC used practices that stifled fighter ability to negotiate with other promotions and locked fighters into restrictive contracts, which combined to suppress fighter pay, were seeking up to $1.6 billion in damages, meaning the UFC and parent company TKO will likely see a $335 million settlement as a major victory, especially if the settlement came with no meaningful changes to the structure of UFC contracts moving forward.

“We are pleased with the settlement and will disclose more when we file with the court in 45-60 days,” a tweet from the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association read.

We are pleased with the settlement and will disclose more when we file with the Court in 45-60 days.

We Love All of these guys!

👊 pic.twitter.com/jetH24vUQ1

— MMAFA (@MMAFA) March 20, 2024
TKO Group Holdings stock shot up nearly five and a half points after news of the settlement broke.

The proposed settlement still must be approved by the court. Prior to news of the settlement, the next stage in the trial was set for April 15.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement to settle all claims asserted in both the Le and Johnson class-action lawsuits, bringing litigation to a close and benefitting all parties,” A UFC statement acquired by reporter Kevin Iole said. “The final terms of the settlement will be submitted to the court of approval.”

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