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MMA Monopoly Claim Advances in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - An underdog mixed martial arts league in Pennsylvania can advance claims that casinos conspired with its competitor to monopolize the market.

Ryan Kerwin, the owner and operator of Xtreme Caged Combat, alleges pro se that two tri-state-area casinos, Harrah's Philadelphia and Valley Forge Casino Resort, agreed to deal exclusively with Xtreme's competitor, Cage Fury Fighting Championships.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel advanced the lawsuit's lead count - refusal to deal in violation of the Sherman Act - Friday, noting that the economics of MMA promotion mean that "a promoter cannot stay in business without access to casino venues."

Xtreme says the casinos' existing agreements give Cage Fury $10,000 per match and bar Xtreme from staging its matches at the casinos.

The two casinos had said the allegations would have to show that that they conspire with one another, but Stengel said this argument ignores "a large swath of antitrust law scrutinizing agreements between customers and suppliers known as vertical restraints on trade."

Precedent recognizes that antitrust violations may exist solely by virtue of a purchaser agreeing to only deal with certain suppliers, according to the ruling.

Stengel did, however, dismiss Xtreme's claims of tortious interference with contract and other Sherman Act claims.

In California, three fighters in Ultimate Fighting Championship, the country's pre-eminent MMA league, contend that UFC's monopoly of live MMA events leads to artificially low pay for its fighters.

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