A Brief Introduction to Mixed Martial Arts, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Intellectual Property Protection


Zuffa LLC is a company that promotes a brand of mixed martial arts (MMA) combat known as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or the UFC. “MMA contests involve bouts between fighters skilled in the various disciplines of martial arts including karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kick boxing, wrestling and others.”[1] Zuffa LLC was founded in January of 2001 by Station Casinos executives Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta as the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).[2] After purchasing the UFC from the Semaphore Entertainment Group, the organization underwent the complete overhaul of a brand of mixed martial arts combat that had not yet been accepted by the general public due to the unorganized, brutal nature of the early days of the sport. Over the course of the past 10 years, Zuffa LLC has successfully created the world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion and revitalized, and nearly recreated, the sport of mixed martial arts around the world.[3] Thanks to the Fertitta brothers and individuals like UFC President Dana White, mixed martial arts is widely regarded as the fastest growing sport in the world. The UFC has seen year over year growth in nearly every category since 2001, it has recently signed a landmark network television deal, and the company is continuing to expand globally at a rapid rate.

With increased media exposure and global growth comes increasing threats to intellectual properties via commercial piracy and infringement. Zuffa LLC has made it clear that they will not tolerate violations of their IP rights domestically or internationally, and they have been at the forefront of some major litigation in prosecuting modern internet pirates. Zuffa LLC has also shown that it will not hesitate to prosecute individual infringers in order to prevent the unauthorized use of its content and set an example to others. In October of 2010, the company filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of Nevada against a British man named Daniel Wallace for illegally streaming UFC pay-per-views over the internet.[4] The cause of action: copyright infringement. In this suit, Zuffa sought an Emergency Temporary Restraining Order and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to prevent Wallace’s website, livevss.tv, from streaming another live UFC event. Zuffa also requested statutory damages up to $150,000 for every illegal stream that was broadcasted, attorney’s fees, legal costs, and the forfeiture of any and all profits that Wallace made off of the ad revenue that was on display during the alleged broadcast.[5] While no criminal violations have been filed as suggested by the aforementioned disclaimer preceding Zuffa’s live broadcasts, the message is clear that Zuffa LLC will not hesitate to pursue legal action in enforcing its intellectual property rights. Yet, the question still remains: Will such litigation be enough to truly trump internet piracy in the long-term on a cost-effective basis? We will have to wait and see the outcome of future litigation and the effect it has on potential violators in order to determine the answer to this question, but one thing is certain: as the UFC brand expands globally and enters new markets, Zuffa LLC will continue to face similar challenges in enforcing their intellectual property rights and be forced to deal with less stringent intellectual property laws in other countries.


[1] Zuffa, LLC v. Pavia Holdings, LLC, No. 2:10-cv-01427-RLH-RJJ, 2011
WL 222456, 1, Slip Copy (D. Nev. Jan. 24, 2011)

[2] David M. Carter, Money Games: Profiting from the Convergence of Sports and Entertainment 32 (2010).

[3] The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the dominant industry player controlling over 90% of the market in mixed martial arts. It was purchased in 2001 for $2 million dollars and is now estimated by Forbes to be worth in excess of $1.3 billion dollars.

[4] Zuffa, LLC v. Wallace, No. 2:2010-cv-01756-RLH-RJJ, (D. Nev. Oct. 8, 2010)

[5] It’s Far From Over: the UFC Once Again Gunning for Internet Pirates | MMA News, http://www.fighters.com/10/12/its-far-from-over-the-ufc-once-again-gunning-for-internet-pirates (last visited Apr. 3, 2011).

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