It might be a cheap shot to call the legislation filed at the UFC in California yesterday “As Real As It Gets,” but it’s definitely no joke.
In his report on the lawsuit, Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann describes the lawsuit as having the ability to “unravel” the UFC — comparing the action to that of Curtis Flood, whose legal battle with Major League Baseball led to the current system of free agency.
“Today, there is only one real promotional option for elite professional Mixed Martial Arts fighters: the UFC,” Joe Saveri, of Saveri Law Firm Inc, said as he introduced the lawsuit to gathered media. “The reason is that the UFC has systematically shut down its competitors over the years and essentially prevented any alternative promotion from coming into the market. The consequence is severe to MMA athletes. Not only have athletes been unable to obtain what they’re worth in this sport, but they’ve lost control of their likenesses, and their ability to profit from their own abilities.”
Would it be another cheap shot to say “The Time Is Now?” Probably.
But, it is — and it’s been in the works for years — and, perhaps, not exactly where you might think.
Reports indicate that the driving force behind the legislation yesterday wasn’t Cung Li, who is listed as the plaintiff. Nor was it Jon Fitch or Nathan Quarry, who are listed next in the legislation. (You’ve probably already read a quote or two from them. The audio of the press conference is at http://www.mmafightcorner.com/2014/12/16/ufc-class-action-lawsuit-press-conference-audio/ if you’d like to take a listen.)
It’s a Canadian mixed martial arts pioneer, who called himself “The Ronin” during a fourteen year run in the fight game: Carlos Newton.
A ronin, for those who don’t know their Japanese, is (briefly) defined as a samurai without a master — and the nickname fit Newton’s “free-thinking” persona. At one point, he packed up his copies of “The Art of War” and “The Book of Five Rings” and traveled from gym to gym to learn the trade, including a stretch in Japan. His unusual martial arts journey was highlighted by a UFC championship at 170 lbs., as well as a successful run in PRIDE FC.
At yesterday’s conference, Newton was described as a “driving force” in the legal action by Quarry, and thanked by Saveri for his “unwavering support.”
Last year, Newton did a rare interview for MMA Confidential, which may just have foreshadowed current events — as he mentions, “I’m working very hard at getting the sport properly regulated… I want to see things done right, and see this sport become a stronger and better sport for the next generation.”
Newton was hailed in an “open letter to the MMA community” by his jiu-jitsu instructor, Joel Gerson, today — who revealed just how much of a driving force Newton was.
Former UFC Champion Carlos “Ronin” Newton is the real whistle-blower in the anti-trust case against the UFC/Zuffa. His name was taken off as the main plaintiff at the 11th hour by lawyers who believed they had a stronger legal position based on case law with an active fighter (Cung Le) who also resides within the jurisdiction of the court where the lawsuit is filed.
This case is a VERY BIG DEAL and is being handled by the strongest anti-trust legal teams in the U.S.–the UFC has a legit problem. The history books should show that Carlos was the one and only fighter who did the entire legal research on his own for the past two years from within Canada on anti-trust legislation in the U.S., literally convincing major law firms on both sides of the border that the UFC was in breach and that it was a worthwhile case.
Gerson’s full statement is at his Facebook page.
It’s a new battle for “The Ronin” — this time though, it seems he isn’t walking alone.