Mixed-Martial Arts (“MMA”) fans are likely excited about the July 6 contest between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman at UFC 162. Although still bloody, MMA contests have evolved from their “human cock-fighting” past to a well-organized billion dollar sport with millions of fans and thousands of aspiring combatants.
The clear leader of the MMA leagues is the UFC, but there have been famous defections from the UFC due to allegedly unfair contracts. Contracts, regardless of the industry, tend to favor the parties with the strongest bargaining power so it is no surprise that the rapidly growing UFC likely negotiates their combatant contracts from a position of strength.
Aspiring fighters who demonstrate promise in the sport of MMA should seek legal counsel early in their careers in order to protect valuable future intellectual property (“IP”), a fancy term for the athlete’s image, likeness, “catch phrases”, style, etc. Randy Couture, an UFC Hall of Famer, even advised young fighters to create a business entity and utilize other protective measures to control and protect the fighter’s brand. Fighters who are serious about the sport should look to protect their IP or face getting figuratively rear-naked choked (or worse) by the UFC or whatever league is dominant.