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Mark Cuban Sues UFC Owners

The sport of MMA is almost as exciting outside the cage these days as the events that take place inside. In an interesting turn of events, Adam Swift is reporting on Sherdog that Mark Cuban has filed suit against Zuffa, the group that owns the UFC.

With the mixed martial arts industry focused on the Zuffa v. Couture proceedings scheduled to begin with a preliminary hearing March 4 in Las Vegas, billionaire Mark Cuban and his HDNet Fights company has quietly entered the fray, opening a second front in the Couture-UFC war, Sherdog.com has learned.

On Wednesday, in district court in Dallas, HDNet Fights filed suit against Zuffa seeking a declaratory judgment concerning the contractual status of Couture under his Zuffa promotional contract. In an ironic twist, Zuffa’s co-defendant in the suit is technically none other than Couture himself.


The lawsuit filed by HDNet Fights asks the Texas court to provide the company with declaratory relief — a ruling on when Couture’s promotional contract will expire. A favorable ruling could clear the way for a highly anticipated showdown between Couture and Fedor Emelianenko this fall, potentially promoted by HDNet Fights.

The lawsuit is the first direct legal challenge of Couture’s promotional contract with the UFC. Zuffa’s lawsuit with Couture centers on his employment contract and its one-year non-compete clause, not his promotional contract. Zuffa has not entered the promotional contract into evidence in that case; however, it has offered the judge the opportunity to view it in private.

Read more about Mark Cuban and Randy Couture on FiveOuncesOfPain.com.

17 COMMENTS
  • canuck says:

    now the end game is starting to become apparent…

  • ufcfan says:

    the ufc should definitely take note of this…reason being, mark cuban didn’t become a billionaire by being dumb or not “thinking” things through.
    he obviously sees a flawed argument from zuffa and is going to capitalize.

    if it was a gary shaw, fedor’s managers etc. etc. zuffa could brush it off with ease but this is different…

    cuban has already made mention of the “muhammed ali reform act”
    which would if ever enacted for mma would completely change the ufc’s relationship with its fighters.

    finally…my interest has been peaked

  • Zuffa is essentially trying to enforce a no-compete clause for life with its so-called “retirement clause,” and that is unlikely to ever hold up in a court of law.

    Heck, in general most non-compete clauses that are longer than one full year don’t hold up in court, much less a no-compete clause for life.

    The only reason that Brock Lesnar is able to fight in the UFC now instead of waiting until June 30, 2010 is because WWE practically got laughed out of court for trying to enforce a six-year no-compete clause that Lesnar signed a few months before quitting WWE.

  • TomK says:

    Contracts are worthless if a fighter can say “I retire”, get out of the contract, and then immediately sign with someone else. It’s not unreasonable that the UFC would want to close this type of loophole.

    Again, no one made Randy sign the contract or take the money the UFC was offering.

    It’s like that in most other sports. If a player “retires” and then decides to come back, the team that he had previously been contracted to, owns the rights to him as though the contract had frozen from when he retired.

    Retirement is irrelevant anyway, because Couture has repeatedly stated that he “resigned” not “retired”.

    If this was a non-compete clause issue, then the UFC would likely be on the losing end of this. But that refers to post-contract activity. Once the contract is up, the UFC isn’t able to significantly limit what Couture can do. But since we’re still in the middle of the contract and Couture’s refusing to fight his 2 remaining contracted fights, we’re not talking non-compete issues — we’re talking breach of contract.

    As far as Cuban’s involvement, he’s merely asking for a court to interpret the contract and determine what it means. If the court finds it’s reasonable, it’s back to the bench for Randy. If the court finds it’s unreasonable, here comes Fedor/Couture — and I hope my cable company picks up HDNet.

  • Evan says:

    “As far as Cuban’s involvement, he’s merely asking for a court to interpret the contract and determine what it means.”

    Yeah…the title of story is misleading.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    It will be very interesting to hear how Cuban has a legal interest in the Zuffa/Couture contract. The interested parties–Zuffa and Couture–already are in a lawsuit in Nevada. If Cuban says he has an interest because he’s talked with Couture and has plans to deal with him, this would enhance Zuffa’s claims against Couture. Cuban can’t just file a lawsuit as a bystander to the relevant contracts and ask a court in a state where neither of the parties reside to interpret them.

  • dice says:

    Tomk, I have been skeptical of the UFC’s contract with Randy for a number of reasons.

    But first you guys need to stop with the silly bullshit “nobody made randy sign the contract”. Everybody knows that and its not the issue.

    If anyone would actually look at the copy of the contract (just the first page) that randy handed out (it is online) they will notice it is missing a few pieces of important information.

    It has no mention of a signing bonus or “locker room” bonus (hence it doesn’t include all the terms of his compensation). Randy maintains that these were verbal agreements. Verbal agreements are difficult to prove but they can and will hold up in court.

    Its pretty simple, the UFC claims Randy didn’t uphold his written agreement while he says they didn’t uphold their verbal agreement. Since the UFC has actually given him these locker room bonuses before; I think it is going to be very difficult for zuffa to claim that they have no idea what he is talking about.

    I think its pretty unreasonable to expect someone to adhere to a contract when you didn’t include all forms of possible compensation. On top of that the UFC contracts are so restrictive that half the terms won’t even hold up in court, as trembow points out(champions clause,no compete clause, etc.) I agreed with what Thaler, Swift and Arnold said about 3 months ago on fightopinion radio regarding this ordeal and my mind hasn’t changed a bit since. The UFC made their bed and now they must lie in it. They should have just been more transparent from the start and in turn would have avoided a number of these problems they now face.

  • Ian says:

    Called this when it first happened. Cuban at the very least will bankroll Couture’s defense. My guess is Couture will eventually sign with HDnet to fight Fedor in a co-sponsored event, and then broadcast for them. Cuban has both the money and the intestinal fortitude to see this through.

  • Evan says:

    “Cuban at the very least will bankroll Couture’s defense. ”

    I don’t think that would be legal.

  • ufcfan says:

    #8 i’d have to agree with you that’s the intention here
    i guess the only concern is the timeframe it will take for this to play out
    they’ll be appeal after appeal

    randy is only getting older, and what if fedor loses…

    speaking of hdnet, they cancelled their last promotional show that was supposed to take place sometime this month. it almost appears if there focusing more on broadcasting fights right now (i.e. strikeforce, mfc, ifl deals)

    like my earlier post, zuffa better take note, cuban wouldn’t get involved unless he knew something was fishy and didn’t make legal sense
    he’s too smart, has too many good lawyers, and $$$

  • TomK says:

    2 things:

    1. The UFC ultimately (no pun intended) can sue for breach of contract, because Couture refused to fulfill his 2 fight requirement. Yes, the length of the contract ran out, but you can’t refuse to perform for the duration, like Couture has by turning down the Nogueira fight.

    Contrary to what I said earlier, if this does go through court, Couture will likely have to pay damages for the breach, but the UFC isn’t likely able to prevent him from fighting somewhere else. Courts don’t like unreasonable non-competes and would never make someone work (or in this case fight) for a company it didn’t want to work for. So, although a lot of legal wrangling will take place, eventually Randy will be able to leave — although he’ll be a little lighter in his wallet.

    2. Cuban’s HDNet can file a suit for a declaratory judgment even though it’s not a party to the contract, because a declaratory judgment is essentially a pre-emptive action. Cuban wants to sign Couture, but since he could potentially be sued for putting Randy in a fight, he wants a court to establish what he can and can’t do — hence getting a declaratory judgment on the legitimacy of the contract.

  • Vince says:

    UFC should be careful with Cuban. He’s not doing this without gaining something. I bet he found a weakness in UFC’s logic.

  • Ian says:

    Good breakdown Tom, that’s pretty much how I see things.

    Basically, Cuban will take the hit to pay for whatever the damages will be. More than likely by paying Couture an exorbitant fee to fight and or broadcast, to cover any court expenses, to get around any direct impropriety that could be used in court.

    The real question is will Zuffa be able to drag this out in the courts until Couture is simply to old to fight Fedor, or the public has lost interest. That’s obviously what they’re going for here. And probably why Cuban is giving this thing a little jolt.

  • Randy is dandy!

    Apple bottom jeans and boots with the furrr!

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    I disagree with the proposition that Cuban has the right to litigate the Couture/Zuffa contract. He is not a party to that agreement, and will have to plead and prove that he has some cognizable interest. Wanting to make a deal with Couture isn’t enough in most states. If it were, anyone of the bloggers on this site could sue Zuffa and Couture in the blogger’s home state on the basis that they really enjoy watching Couture fight and want him to fight now and outside the UFC. Couture and Zuffa already are litigating their dispute. If Cuban really thought he had some interest, he could move to intervene in the Nevada action. That probably wouldn’t work for the same reason: he has no legally cognizable stake in the dispute between Couture and Zuffa.

    This may be an attempt by Cuban and Couture to “forum shop”–find a court they perceive as more friendly in hopes of getting a better result than what they anticipate in Nevada. Zuffa may move to dismiss the Texas action because Cuban has no valid interest, or, in the alternative, seek a stay of the Texas action pending a decision in the Nevada action that has been on file for months.

    If Cuban is bankrolling the Texas action or the Nevada action for Couture, that could be dangerous. He could be setting himself up for a claim that he’s tortiously interfering with Zuffa’s contractual relationship with Couture, and it would be evidence of Couture’s ongoing breaches. Many states allow punitive damages that are intended to punish intentional misconduct. The amount of the actual damages isn’t always a limitation on the amount of the punitive damages, which can take into account the assets of the bad actor. In other words, Cuban’s exposure could be a lot bigger than just the economic loss to Zuffa if Couture didn’t finish his last two fights with UFC.

    As far as the injunction in Nevada is concerned, Zuffa won’t be able to prevent Couture from fighting for the rest of his life. However, they have a good argument that he should be restrained from fighting outside the UFC during the term of his agreement (whatever period of time that may be) for reasons including but not limited to a non-compete.

  • Adam lightfield says:

    Looks like Fedor and Randy could fight by next Christmas. That’s all i care about hearing in all this mess.

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