There have been several changes recently to the UFC’s promotional agreements, which could have an impact on the sport’s future.
In the new UFC contracts obtained, sweeping changes have been made that are both restrictive and concerning for fighters, particularly the addition of arbitration and a class action waiver.
These have the potential to impact the current antitrust lawsuit and reverse some of the contractual gains fighters have made over the past few years.
For a better understanding of these newest changes, let’s take a look at improvements to UFC contracts in recent years, which may have been in response to antitrust lawsuits.
In January of last year, we saw reports of the changes to UFC contracts for the first time.
As part of these changes, a sunset clause was added that limited the amount of time a contract could be extended for turning down fights, the exclusive negotiating period was removed, and image rights were shortened to two years after the contract ended.
In 2017, the UFC introduced these changes to its contracts, a date that now divides the two lawsuits it faces. Le v Zuffa covers December 16, 2010, through June 30, 2017, while a second lawsuit filed in 2021 covers fighters who have competed in the UFC between July 1, 2017, and today.
It is possible that these changes will eventually force the two classes to be split, which could mitigate damages against the UFC, since fighters in both groups are fighting under different contracts and market conditions.
Among the fighters who have benefited from these changes are Francis Ngannou, who used the new “sunset” clause to exit the promotion as UFC champion, something that was unthinkable a few years ago.
Paulo Costa and other fighters seem to be following the same path as Ngannou, while it’s very likely that others have used the threat of waiting out their contracts to get better deals.