DALLAS (CN) – Calling it harassment, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban asked a federal judge Monday to quash a subpoena from former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters in their antitrust class action against fight promoters.
Cuban filed a motion to quash the highly anticipated deposition, saying that he and his AXS television network are not parties to the lawsuit.
Former UFC fighters Cung Le, Nate Quarry, et al. sued UFC parent Zuffa LLC in San Jose Federal Court in 2014, claiming the UFC pushes out rival promoters to maintain iron-fisted control over mixed martial arts.
They say the UFC is “the only game in town” for elite fighters, resulting in “artificially reduced” pay. They claim the UFC also takes the fighters’ rights to their names and likenesses, limiting their ability to license themselves for commercial products, even after their UFC contracts expire.
The UFC succeeded in having the case moved to Las Vegas Federal Court, near its headquarters.
Formerly known as HDNet, Cuban’s television network has billed itself as “your home for MMA” for several years. It began broadcasting “Inside MMA” in 2007, the longest-running MMA weekly news show on television.
After promoting his own HDNet Fights MMA show at the American Airlines Center in Dallas in 2007, Cuban abandoned promoting his own events and began showing regional MMA promotions’ fight cards live every Friday night under the AXS TV Fights brand. The network now broadcasts live fight cards from Legacy Fighting Alliance, CES MMA and Lion Fight Muay Thai.
Cuban says the plaintiffs refused to confer on the need for his deposition until after the depositions of UFC president and CEO Dana White and AXS executive Andrew Simon. He calls the deposition an “undue burden” on him because of his “busy schedule and obligations as a high-level executive,” and says a lower-level AXS employee should be deposed instead.
“Furthermore, the subpoenas are overly broad in that they contain absolutely no limitations or specifications of topics,” the 10-page motion states. “Likewise, Mr. Cuban’s schedule that is a result of his role as a high-level executive within AXS and dozens of other companies makes it a burden for him to comply with the subpoenas.”
Cuban says the parties have failed to show they have exhausted less-intrusive means to get the discovery they want.
“The parties have not shown that Mr. Cuban has any unique personal knowledge of discoverable information that is unavailable from other sources,” the motion states. “Rather, the subpoenas are merely an attempt to harass AXS and Mr. Cuban and constitute an undue burden.”
Originally viewed as a barbaric spectacle with no rules, the UFC and the sport of MMA overcame bans in several states by welcoming regulation by state boxing commissions as a legitimate sport. The promotion reached mainstream popularity after the successful “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series began broadcasting in 2005. The promotion peaked in 2016 when it was sold to a group led by talent agency WME-IMG for approximately $4 billion.
The UFC has a reputation of buying their competition out or putting them out of business. It purchased Japan-based rival Pride Fighting Championships in 2007, folded it, then promoted Pride’s fighters under the UFC banner.
The UFC purchased California-based World Extreme Cagefighting in 2006 and continued to promote several WEC shows until it merged its popular lower weight classes into the UFC. Rival promotions by MMA apparel company Affliction and CBS/Showtime-backed Elite Xtreme Combat went out of business in 2009 and 2008, respectively.
The UFC’s biggest domestic competitor, San Jose-based Strikeforce, sold itself to Zuffa in 2011. The UFC continued to promote Strikeforce shows, but eventually shut it down and promoted Strikeforce fighters at UFC events, including the introduction Strikeforce’s highly popular female fighters.