Yesterday marked a significant setback for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit delivered a concise yet impactful decision, denying the promotion’s petition for permission to appeal. In a one-page document, the Ninth Circuit concluded with a resounding, “The petition for permission to appeal is denied.”
This ruling dealt a blow to the UFC’s efforts to avoid a looming antitrust trial, a case that has garnered widespread attention within the mixed martial arts (MMA) industry. The UFC’s argument revolved around challenging the credibility of expert witnesses representing five former UFC fighters who serve as plaintiffs in the case. The promotion contested the methodology used by these experts, specifically their utilization of a “wage share” theory to illustrate fighter injuries resulting from alleged anticompetitive behavior by the UFC. Additionally, the UFC raised concerns about the assumption of a common impact across all fighters.
Despite the UFC’s contentions, the Ninth Circuit sided against the promotion in its decision. Notably, the court’s order did not offer any detailed explanation for its verdict. Had the Ninth Circuit accepted the UFC’s petition, the impending antitrust trial would have been put on hold, possibly extending the proceedings by 2-3 years while the appeals process played out.
Shortly after the Ninth Circuit’s decision became public, U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware of Las Vegas, the presiding trial judge, issued a minute order. In this order, Judge Boulware not only reaffirmed the previously announced trial date of April 2024 but also expedited certain aspects of the proceedings.