A current Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter and two former contenders have filed a class-action lawsuit against the organization, alleging an illegal monopoly that limits fighter earnings.
Cung Le, a middleweight recently embroiled in a disputed human growth hormone test in which the UFC rescinded his suspension after declaring a positive test, was joined by former welterweight title challenger Jon Fitch and Nate Quarry in the lawsuit, which attorneys said was filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
“The UFC is aware of the action filed today, but has not been served, nor has it had the opportunity to review the document,” the company said in a prepared statement. “The UFC will vigorously defend itself and its business practices.”
Le recently told The Times he’s asked the UFC to release him from a contract in which he was to fight twice more.
“They told my manager they did not want me to talk to [rival mixed martial arts promoter] Bellator,” Le wrote in a text message to The Times last week. “So no fight, because I don’t want to fight for them. It’s about integrity with me now.”
In a statement, an attorney for the fighters said, “The UFC was built on the battered bodies of MMA fighters, who have left their blood and sweat in the octagon. Those fighters are entitled to the benefits of a competitive market for their talents.
“All UFC fighters are paid a mere fraction of what they would make in a competitive market. Rather than earning paydays comparable to boxers – a sport with many natural parallels – MMA fighters go substantially under-compensated despite the punishing nature of their profession.”
The attorney alleged billionaire owner Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC President Dana White have sought to eliminate competitive MMA circuits, such as Strikeforce.
Another attorney representing the fighters said in the statement, “As a result of the UFC’s scheme, we allege that UFC fighters are paid [a] fraction of what they would earn in a competitive marketplace.”
The UFC recently struck an apparel deal with Reebok, with White vowing that “every dime” of profit would go to the fighters on a tiered system from champions on down.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire