Sunday, January 8, 2023

Wife Slapping: UFC President Dana White's Public Spat With Anne Stella White Reveals Chilling Connection to Organized Crime

 By: Rich Bergeron

From Left to Right: Teresa Fertitta, Lorenzo Fertitta, Anne Stella White and Dana White

"Aren't you afraid you're gonna get whacked?" 

      This is a question I used to get asked all the time. Most people who found out what I was doing with this site thought that prospect was a natural occupational hazard of covering the Fertittas and their involvement in intentionally bankrupting Xyience. 

     The reality was I never got a single threatening phone call and never felt like there was a real target on my back. However, I did always take precautions to make sure the Fertittas would never find out where I lived when I was stuck in Las Vegas for two years fighting their attempts to profit off their destruction of Xyience. This involved some creative evasive measures. Exiting the courthouse and getting home without a tail each time I appeared against them was an adventure in itself. 

     Why was I so confident nothing horrible would happen to me? The regulated nature of the casino industry requires near spotless records to be maintained by all license applicants and license holders. The Fertittas would not risk injuring me or killing me and having it even appear to be linked to them. Their empire would be at stake if they gave my reports credence by making me disappear. If they maintained any obvious illicit relationships with anyone connected to organized crime, they could lose their casino licenses. So, even the most inconsequential ties to "the Mob" would have to be kept very close to their vests and top secret to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

     So, what does any of this have to do with Dana White and his wife getting in a slap fighting spat in Mexico while drunk and emotional? Bear with me. It's a fairly long story that starts with a yearbook photo I acquired of Anne Stella from when she was at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas:


      The photo above links to my Pinterest account where I also have pictures of Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta from their common years at Bishop Gorman. All these years after I connected with a Bishop Gorman classmate who sent me these pictures, the story has finally come full circle. 

      The Bishop Gorman nexus perhaps explains everything about the way the UFC operates as a business today. It is so much more relevant now than it was back then, because I have made a new discovery from a 7-year-old interview I conducted with June White, Dana White's mother (Starting at the 1:11 mark). June and I covered a very wide range of topics, but a recent review of that audio (start at the 1 hour and 50 minute mark) uncovered a crucial detail I neglected to follow up on until this past week. It relates directly to who Anne Stella White really is and reveals a perfectly good reason why all the alleged affairs Dana White's been implicated in never resulted in a divorce. It's not just because they've known each other since they were 12. 

June White (L) and her son Dana White (R)

The Real Anne Stella White Story and Why We Don't Know It Already

     The news media scrambling for dirt on Anne keeps harping on racy details of her "joke" of a marriage to Dana that June White reported when promoting her tell all book on her son. June also claimed Anne gave Dana a severe black eye on their honeymoon. These writers relaying Dana's mother's commentary have some of the "family" drama pegged, but they have absolutely no clue about the most secret back story Anne Stella has. If even the sports media had any idea of what I know about Anne, would they even try to cover it? It appears ESPN reporters have been effectively muzzled already on "the slap heard around the world:"

      I specifically discussed the concept of "UFC nut-huggers" with Dana White's mother. If you're not familiar with the term, it refers to people who will never utter a bad word about the premiere MMA organization. On top of that, some of them are actually paid to post all kinds of complimentary stuff on social media about Dana, UFC business, UFC fighters and UFC events. I'm not talking about just publicists, either. Some paid posters are even encouraged to verbally squabble with doubters and detractors of the organization. I saw it firsthand while posting links to content here at Sherdog and on other mixed martial arts forums. June White successfully sued over one particular woman linked to her son who trolled her viciously online after June's book went public. June even informed me that my book on representing yourself in court helped her out in some key areas. 

       So it did not surprise me one bit when Dana White's most recent scandal had more people defending him than demanding his resignation. He even had loyal UFC fighters standing up for their boss. 

     "She hit him first" was the most common refrain. She threatened the reign of their king, so the spin had to be that this was all her fault. It's as if these fighters, fans and devoted UFC media only watched the first part of the video where Anne slapped Dana and Dana slapped her back once. I don't think most of these "nut-huggers" bothered to acknowledge the second and third slap from Dana. It appeared something was thrown at Dana's head to ultimately stop his continued assault after that. Much of the final moments were blurred by darkness and the entire violent scene blending into the crowd. 

     You know what else is in the dark? Anne Stella's background. Here are a couple of articles that claim to tell you everything you might want to know about the wife of "The Baldfather:"

     It appears that there are a lot of unknowns about Anne and her family. She's kept her past top secret and avoids the public eye like the plague. June White knew the real reason why she had to do that. She told me 7 years ago that Dana's father-in-law was connected to the Chicago mob. For some reason I never followed up on that tip until a week ago when the Mexican slap-off became a viral story.

Married to the Mob 

      Anne Stella's father was not just any old mafioso. Much like the Station Casinos founder Frank Fertitta Junior (Frank III and Lorenzo's dad), Robert Frank Stella, now deceased, was reportedly involved in a massive skimming operation connected to certain casinos in Las Vegas. Historical accounts and FBI evidence show "Bobby Stella" was quite literally a "bag man" who managed the Stardust Casino and often carried out the skimmed cash in a paper grocery bag. 

     This passage from a lengthy article explains the Stardust skim from an insider perspective:

     "Johnny Rosselli later named other Stardust “supervisors” brought in for good measure: “[Sam Giancana] sent Al Sachs and Bobby Stella to help [Drew]. Dalitz’s got Yale Cohen to watch his end. But Sam’s got a sleeper in there, Phil Ponti, a made guy from Chicago. A real sharp operator.”

     When the Stardust finally opened for business on July 2, 1958, it proved well worth the effort. After the grand opening, attended by guests of honor then senator and future president Lyndon Baines Johnson and his trusty sidekick Bobby Baker, the money began arriving in Chicago almost faster than it could be counted. “They’re skimming the shit out of that joint,” Rosselli later told Fratianno. “You have no idea how much cash goes through that counting room every day. You, your family, your uncles and cousins, all your relatives could live the rest of their lives in luxury with just what they pull out of there in a month. Jimmy, I’ve never seen so much money.” Coming from a man who had lived through the phenomenal profits of the bootlegging era, this speaks volumes about the lure of Las Vegas.

      The last part of that snippet above is ironic considering the fact that the Fertitta brothers lived their entire lives in luxury thanks to their father's casino industry legacy. It's certain that Frank Fertitta Junior did not just cross paths a few times over the years with Bobby Stella. Fertitta and Stella were intimately involved in the casino skimming efforts popularized in the movie "Casino" starring Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci. Fertitta's Wikipedia page explains: 

     "...he [Fertitta] worked as a dealer, pit boss, baccarat manager and general manager at properties including the Stardust; Tropicana, Circus CircusSahara and the Fremont in downtown Las Vegas." 

      Again, an obituary tells the hidden story behind the very close relationship between the Stella and Fertitta families. The "Memories and Condolences" section of Frank Junior's "Legacy" page contains the following entry left by Robert and Roberta Stella:

     "Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. Fertitta and her devoted family always. You are all very special to us."

Mafia Mentality Permeates Dana White's UFC Management Style

      Restrictive contracts, rewarding extreme employee loyalty and routine intimidation tactics utilized by Dana White over the years in his role as UFC President now make so much more sense. They call him "the boss" for a reason. You have to "put on a show" to make it in the UFC long term. In other words, as a mob boss would say, "You've gotta be a good earner." You have to be the kind of fighter that puts eyeballs on the brand and asses in the seats if you want to get Dana's admiration and a good return on your investment in training. 

     Organized crime has always been hovering in the background for the entirety of White's reign over what is widely considered the most powerful mixed martial arts league on the planet. It makes the James Krause betting scandal seem tame now in comparison. I interviewed Krause in 2016 for a now-defunct podcast. He was one of the few outspoken fighters involved in the UFC, but only because he always knew he had to diversify his income. 

     Another fighter who graced the Octagon more than a few times joined our podcast back in 2010. It was just before what turned out to be his last fight in the UFC, which he lost by knockout to Brad Tavares. "The New York Badass" Phil Baroni was involved in an even more horrific domestic violence incident in Mexico recently. Baroni allegedly murdered his girlfriend after she confessed to cheating on him with another man. 

     Baroni, known for his abrasive attitude and balls to the wall fighting style, was on his absolute best behavior during our chat. I asked him one last question about Dana White's rule over the UFC when we talked back then." It's his money, it's his show and he's the boss," Baroni said. 

Listen to his answers to my last two questions for Baroni by following the link below.  

Phil Baroni Commentary on Dana White and Fighting in the UFC 01/08 by Fight News Unlimited | Sports (

      We also can't neglect to mention the double standard involved in the "slap heard around the world." The "do as I say not as I do" mantra fits the scenario perfectly. White has thrown people out of the UFC for getting wrapped up in incidents of domestic violence. Yet, his own example of the same behavior is treated much differently. There has been no formal punishment at all despite White admitting publicly he has no excuse for his actions. 

      There's no doubt in my mind that this debacle is something Dana White will effortlessly bounce back from. The organizational underboss has all the job security a guy could want due to his popularity and pull. However, things might have been drastically different if his father-in-law was still alive when Dana slapped Bobby Stella's beloved daughter down in a drunken rage. Who knows what Anne's dear old dad would have done in this situation if he was still walking among us. I imagine the penance Dana would have to pay in that case would have been much harsher. Instead, look for this news story to drop off the radar and fade into oblivion while Dana continues with "business as usual."  

Monday, February 17, 2020

Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta Face Their Worst Nightmare as the Culinary Union Takes Center Stage in National Democratic Primary Picture

By: Rich Bergeron

This Saturday Nevada will caucus to determine how many delegates will go to which candidates running as Democrats in the 2020 race for the White House. The most significant political force to weigh in on who should get the ultimate nod on this special day for national politics will be Local 226, The Culinary Union.

This reality is much to the chagrin of a common enemy I share with this particular union, Billionaire Brothers and Sophisticated Scam Artists Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III. Suddenly the blackjack tables are turned in Las Vegas. It used to be the Fertittas wielding power over the union, refusing to acknowledge stringent efforts to unionize their casino chain. Station Casinos, AKA Red Rock Resorts is now losing the fight. The Culinary crew is infiltrating one Station establishment after another.

The Palms Casino, the latest acquisition for Station Casinos, is one of the last bastions of union resistance. The Fertittas already sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into upgrading this casino, and the culinary union fight actually resulted in the threat of financial kickbacks from the government getting jammed up by congressional democrats. Prior to the vote this Saturday, some democratic candidates for president may actually even join the picket line at The Palms and herald the Culinary Union effort to grab another piece of the Fertitta casino empire's pie.  

This is a nasty fight, one that countless union dues have gone toward waging relentlessly over the years since I began investigating the Fertittas for their shady involvement in the Xyience scandal. I've actually personally been interviewed at length by Culinary Union researchers on multiple occasions. Much of the information they put on their anti-Fertitta Web-sites originated with my reporting here and simply expanded on that work. At one point this fight was so fierce that the union resorted to what I saw as a sick and twisted campaign to make fighters in the UFC (also owned by the Fertittas at the time) believe that this same union would step up and stand up for their rights to fair treatment, too. The culinary union put up a Web-site pointing to a potential effort to organize fighters but never really bothered to make any legitimate foray into that realm. It was a bluff I personally blasted in an article on Rant Sports.

Now that the Fertittas are out of the fighting business altogether, I can look at this union a bit more objectively and perhaps forgive them for biting off more than they could chew years ago. After all, their people definitely picked up where I left off with exposing these spoon-fed crooks moonlighting as successful self-made men.

If you wonder just how much this feud is hurting the brothers and their casino investors, consider the moves they've made recently to pump up the stock with personal investments from family trusts and the suggested selling of senior notes to raise $750 million. They are even shopping around property they own to pay down some of the massive debt they've incurred. The fact that this company once again left the veil of private ownership and became a public entity did not stop the managing interests from tainting the brand with their financial tricks.

The Palms project alone comes in at an expense of nearly $1 billion if the cost of the purchase is included. This gamble will really have to pay off, and they will have to pinch every penny moving forward to survive an ongoing battle like this with the likes of the Culinary Union. Only the infusion of their own personal capital staved off a completely negative trend in the Red Rock Resorts stock that saw more investors losing shares than acquiring them last year. That money was not even really all that important to the Fertitta brothers themselves. It was more like a raiding of the piggy bank where they keep the future inheritance their children will enjoy someday. All of the funds came from trusts, not really out of the personal coffers they covet and hide in multiple business entities like "Fertitta Capital" and "Fertitta Enterprises."

The Culinary Union is in this for keeps, and now they are clearly at a tipping point ahead of this caucus. There is no doubt the Fertittas and their friends will be flooding Donald Trump and the rest of his party representatives with donations to stave off a Democrat takeover after the 2020 general election. If the United States decides to elect a Democrat as president, the Fertittas will likely get out of the casino business as fast as they possibly can. The union takeover will be all but inevitable.

Already the pressure is becoming unbearable as there is no stone left unturned in the fight to expose the Fertittas as frauds. At one point Station Casinos was voted by workers as one of the best places to work in Nevada, but these days Culinary folks are alleging that the chain is an unsafe working environment that OSHA should investigate. It's hard not to look back at this very moment on the tumultuous bankruptcy the chain escaped virtually unscathed. Billions of dollars in debt were erased. The amount of money spent on "going big" with The Palms may come back to haunt the company. This is especially true since there is such a focus on art involved in the $690 million overhaul. The Fertittas have not had the best luck in the art world. Frank Fertitta III once bought what was later determined to be a fake Mark Rothko painting. He paid a whopping $7.2 million for the con in the classic case of a swindler who got a taste of his own medicine. Lawsuits helped him recover the money he lost, but it was still an indicator of how the brothers often spend their income recklessly and don't use the best judgment in business decisions.

It is no surprise then that there are rumors that the Fertittas want a way out of the casino business, and they may choose the path of a complete sell-off. Only a few properties would remain under their control in that scenario, namely The Palms and Palace Station. It would also take a monumental effort to do this kind of transaction under public ownership if it doesn't represent an instant and significant benefit for all current investors.

There is also still tremendous buzz about the Fertitta brothers being interested in owning an NFL team, which would likely depend on a major sale like what I described above. Still, I would not offer any odds on that prospect unless they ingratiate themselves with a more wholesome group of partners to make the deal. As is, they are barely suitable to be given a gaming license in any state. Their connection to various cases of corruption, scandal, fraud and abuse of the bankruptcy laws is telling. They cannot run from their history, as this recent Chicago Tribune article explains. The National Football League would be wise to keep them far away from any team ownership position.

As for this weekend's caucus efforts, look for the Culinary Union to take advantage of the spotlight that will be on Las Vegas and Station Casinos on Saturday. Regardless of whether or not the Democrats have any chance to unseat Trump, the Culinary Union will continue to fight for better treatment of their workers. Their momentum is palpable, and their influencing power is potent. For once in their lives, it may actually be time for the Fertitta brothers to play nice and surrender in this war of attrition. They will only hurt themselves and their investors in the long run if they keep butting heads with this growing political force. Financial losses can be recovered, but reputational damage is typically more permanent.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Corporate Raiders of Las Vegas Launching Campaign to Move Oakland Raiders to Sin City; Fertittas Making Slick Moves to Liquidate Assets for NFL Team Purchase

By: Rich Bergeron

As a passionate NFL fan who happens to also have unique insight into the number one mixed martial arts organization on the planet, I'd like this article serve as a formal warning to the National Football League...

The Fertittas owning the Oakland Raiders or having anything to do with that storied franchise, or any other NFL team with such a solid football history will forever taint your organization. To put it bluntly: the brothers Fertitta are bad news, period.

It is a wonder to me that the Fertitta brothers (now through Red Rock Resorts) can still legally hold and profit off a gaming license in the state of Nevada in light of their own HISTORY. Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III are not now, and they never will be... real "team" players. Here are three reasons why:

1.) They are always paying themselves first in every business deal they design, and they will do whatever it takes to create vast wealth off of shady and ruthless business practices.

2.) They have a documented history of abusing the bankruptcy courts to benefit themselves off the backs of hundreds of innocent investors.

3.) The Fertitta ownership of the UFC is a prime example of why they would be the worst possible owners of an NFL team the league could even imagine. UFC fighters are often saddled with egregious contracts that are riddled with complicated performance clauses and other nuances that make it very difficult for them to maximize their earning potential.

These slick Vegas casino baron brothers might be making stadium plans after collecting a boatload of liquid assets through their IPO of Station Casinos, but they are far from suitable owners for a major sports franchise in the NFL.

In their case, NFL ought to stand for "No Frank and Lorenzo."

The Oakland Raiders would be a great fit in Las Vegas, don't get me wrong. I'd love to see that city with an official NFL team, and it would generate local and international interest. I lived in Las Vegas for about two years (thanks in part to the Fertittas and their lawyers), and the city needs something like a big NFL stadium to stimulate the local economy and bring a different demographic to the area to enjoy something other than gambling and showgirls.

The main problem here with the proposed move is the movers. There are plenty of other fair players and sports enthusiasts based in Las Vegas who would be better ambassadors for the sport of football. NFL officials, please beware of these evil-minded brothers who wield an iron fist over the sport of mixed martial arts as it is. Even if they divest themselves from their casinos and the UFC, bringing them onboard the big NFL ownership bus means bringing their whole ugly past with them. It sends a bad message to honest people everywhere...nice guys finish last and greed is great.

The prior business moves and absolute disregard for the people they built their fortunes off the backs of is proof enough of the Fertitta brothers being unfit for NFL ownership. If there is any way to prevent any sale of an NFL team to this brotherhood, NFL officials should take that course of action and seek other investors who are unrelated to the Fertittas and their ugly shadow cast by a history of family corruption and financial scheming. The Oakland Raiders may need a figurative Hail Mary to stay alive in the league, but involving the Fertittas in their franchise as financial backers is like inviting the devil himself to be part of the ownership group. The Oakland Raiders can choose from a multitude of "lesser evils" in Sin City to build the franchise on a new frontier.

As an NFL fan who appreciates the growth of the sport amidst so many challenges like the concussion situation and the criminal tendencies exhibited by so many players in the league, I look at Fertitta ownership of an NFL team as a stain on the sport it will never be able to erase. I consider Fertitta ownership of an NFL team to be a crime against the sport itself.

I sincerely hope the National Football League engages in a due dilligence investigation into the past business dealings of the Fertitta Brothers before they hand Lorenzo and Frank the keys to Raiders Kingdom. Their civil litigation history alone is enough to raise plenty of concerns as to their ability to fairly manage such an undertaking without resorting to their familiar MO of scheming and scamming to line their own pockets. The NFL is rife with enough scandal without the shade these two brothers bring to the collective bargaining table.

Friday, February 26, 2016

IP NO: Station Casinos, AKA Red Rock Resorts (RRR) Not Worth The Investment

By: Rich Bergeron


Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta were set to make out like bandits, raiding their cash cow corporation once again for a massive amount of funds with a single scheme. The "Red Rock Resorts" IPO was the talk of the town and Wall Street for a little while, but the brothers pulled back at the last second after feeling the shellshock of heavy market losses in late January.

Anyone who might be thinking about investing in this latest Fertitta financial scheme should also pull back.

This IPO debacle is par for the Fertitta course. If you know the real history of the Fertitta family, you know these folks are the type of people who ruthlessly screw over other people to make all their money. From the card tables to the boardroom, the Fertitta brothers have a knack for separating honest people from their savings and fortunes.

The only "offering" the public really gets in buying Red Rock Resorts stock is an offer to help the Fertitta brothers set themselves and their kids up with more voluminous, ridiculous, ludicrous wealth. And at the end of the day, the Fertittas will still run the whole Station Casinos show. And when the Fertittas run the show, history proves that they always pay themselves first.

According to, the main beneficiaries of a Red Rock Resorts IPO would be two generations of the Fertitta family:

"...all net proceeds will go towards reorganizing the corporate structure, including an acquisition of Fertitta Entertainment LLC. It's expected that Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta will each take home $112.5 million while trusts for their six children will receive $53 million. Additional stock sales included in the IPO could net the brothers even more."

Obviously, I have my own reasons for not trusting the Fertittas. They spent an awful lot of money on lawyers trying to prove they had nothing to do with the bogus $25 million suit against me that I successfully defeated over the course of six years of representing myself in their home courts. Yet, at the same time, the injunctions secured against me prevented me from writing the truth at the beginning of that case. That allowed the Fertittas to take Xyience out from under all the honest investors in the company who thought the Fertittas would help the company and set them all up for life once the long-awaited Xyience IPO came around.

Instead of the Fertittas doing the right thing, they used fall guys to take care of themselves and stole Xyience with what the bankruptcy trustee called a "loan to own" scheme. The casino barons simply pumped a little money into their shady acquisition, sat on their stolen nest egg for a few years, and sold the whole operation off to a Texas company for way more than it was worth.


Wall Street regulators and speculators would also be naive to forget that Station Casinos went public before, only to find a way to allegedly underbid shareholders in reclaiming the brand as a private corporation a few years later. This is not to mention all the other small maneuvers and manipulations pulled off by these casino barons to line their own pockets and take care of their friends and family.

Dig just beneath the surface of the amusement park the Fertittas built over the bodies of their financial kills, and you will find enough skeletons to fill a cemetery. Rather than physical bodies that an "old school" mobster might leave, these new school gangsters leave broken hopes and dreams, other people paying their tabs and countless fighters on the UFC roster who are constantly and consistently underpaid and under-appreciated if they fail to "put on a show." Even banks end up feeling screwed over after agreeing to do business with these brothers and their associates.

The Fertittas and Station Casinos have a lengthy history of being involved in deals that allegedly favor them (and their friends and relatives) only to degrade and devalue their distant or direct partners at the same time. To call them duplicitous is too nice in this context, and to call them devious is also too much of a compliment. Yet, throughout the patterns of their business transactions, they seem to leave a ton of people on the other end feeling cheated, right down to the casino patrons who get comped by management just so they can lose their life savings trying to win back what's already lost. "The house always wins" is a concept that is well known and fabulously executed in the Fertitta family business acumen. Just take a gander at their litigation history:

Lawsuit over 2001 "sweetheart deal" (Station Casinos made $1.7 million on sale to former executive and family friend Blake Sartini):

"Station Casinos failed to negotiate the sale of Southwest Gaming to [Blake] Sartini at arm's length, according to the suit. The company also failed to appoint a committee of independent directors to negotiate the deal or retain a financial valuation expert to determine whether the terms of the sale were fair to the company, the suit said. The board also failed to seek independent, third-party bidders for Southwest Gaming or otherwise shop around the company for the highest possible price, it said."  

Back in 1998, investors accused Station Casinos principals of wasting company assets by paying a $54 million "breakup fee" to Crescent Real Estate Equities. Crescent, owned by billionaire Richard Rainwater, initially agreed to pay $1.7 billion to acquire the locals casino chain, but the deal went sour. The resulting fallout culminated with a federal lawsuit. Instead of getting roughly $18 per share in a buyout by Crescent, Station Casinos investors obviously felt shafted in having to foot the bill for another Fertitta family financial flop.

Station Casinos ended their first stint as a publicly traded company with a $5.77 billion buyout in 2007, which resulted in another slew of investor lawsuits. A few years, and around $6.5 billion in debt accumulation followed before the Fertittas put the chain through a very favorable bankruptcy process. As Donald Trump admitted to doing during his recent presidential run, the Fertittas "took advantage of the laws" in buying the bulk of the company's assets back on the other side of the bankruptcy (with the help of Deutsche Bank) for pennies on the dollar ($772 million).

The bankruptcy process victimized a long list of people (including a Texas Teachers' Pension Fund) who put money on the prospect of the Fertitta brothers building the brand into a bigger entity than their founding father Frank Junior could have ever imagined. Bondholders left in the cold by the massive bankruptcy filing sued, looking back at that 2007 leveraged buyout as the beginning of the end for the company. They filed their claims before the bankruptcy became imminent:

"The ... defendants are not acting gentlemanly,’’ the lawsuit charges. The suit alleges: "The exchange offers unfairly, disloyally and without bondholders’ consent, deny plaintiff and the entire class of similarly situated bondholders the ability to take advantage of the bond tender offers. Plaintiffs’ bond holdings will be subordinated to the newly issued bonds and, as a result, will likely be rendered worthless as the specter of Station Casinos’ insolvency approaches.’’

According to bankruptcy paperwork, the bondholders also made serious accusations that the Fertittas and their partners engaged in insider dealing with the buyout in 2007:

The buyout cost Station Casinos $4.17 billion in costs to purchase stock and incur new debt of $1.6 billion.
The filing says the buyout provided approximately $500 million in payments for insiders, nearly $300 million of which went to the Fertittas, including Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Fertitta III and brother and Vice Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta. The insiders' ownership stake rose to 25 percent. 

The Xyience bankruptcy suspiciously went down under "Fertitta Enterprises" ownership just before Station Casinos officially declared bankruptcy. It appeared like the Fertittas were testing the waters by casually steering a canoe down the bankruptcy river first, waving on the giant paddleboat to follow.

At some point it seems like this family figured out that making money off their various schemes required having really great lawyers on hand to fight inevitable lawsuits, get around business and financing laws, and avoid the loss of their gaming licenses. After all, associations with criminals or criminal enterprises are supposed to disqualify certain individuals from even being involved in gaming:

Nevada Revised Statutes NRS463.0129 state: “The continued growth and success of gaming is dependent upon public confidence and trust…that gaming is free from criminal and corruptive elements.”

It's hard to believe these brothers could ever be involved in gaming when you consider their involvement in the USA Capital scandal. The former President and COO of that company earned a 12-year prison sentence for fraud perpetrated there. Some of that fraudulent activity allowed the Fertittas to benefit directly through shady loan schemes providing millions in capital to Fertitta Enterprises. Fertitta Enterprises GM Bill Bullard was a gung-ho, pit-boss-type of mover and shaker for USA Capital before Joseph Milanowski's fraud brought the company crashing down. 

According to the Las Vegas Review Journal: "The Fertitta family, founder of Station Casinos in Las Vegas, had $17 million invested in USA Capital and got it all back when one of their attorneys was on the oversight committee...The attorney then resigned from the committee." One scheme Bullard orchestrated prompted lawyers to draw up a diagram to explain it:
Bullard was even audacious enough to address company investors and tell them: "The longer this thing goes on (in bankruptcy court), the more the attorneys are going to get paid." 

Deutsche Bank, one of the main partners in the current Station Casinos conglomerate, is also facing recent scrutiny for alleged illegal dealings. The bank agreed last year to pay more than $2 billion in penalties to US and British authorities after admitting to rigging global interest rates. Deutsche Bank is also the subject of two ongoing criminal investigations in the United States. The bank is also facing allegations of supporting the money laundering activities of Russian clients.

On top of all this, the Fertittas willfully supported the violation of federal gaming laws by allowing "Full Tilt Poker" to advertise in association with UFC events. These in-cage and on-screen plugs obviously sent more customers to a Web-site that was not only shut down for operating illegally in the United States, but it was also later determined to be a Ponzi Scheme. The Fertittas, who also pursued online gambling through legal channels in the wake of the poker site crackdown, obviously should have known Full Tilt was always operating outside of federal gambling laws. Ray Bitar, one of the founders of Full Tilt Poker, struck a deal on various charges in 2013 that included bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling. Station Casinos principals and a few of their associates launched "Ultimate Poker" the same year Bitar made that last deal.  

The arrest of Bitar in 2011 also came at a time when the UFC was working on a deal to double down on their sponsorship arrangement with Full Tilt Poker. Reports in the wake of the Full Tilt bust additionally indicated that Station Casinos had their own plans to unite with Full Tilt in anticipation of favorable federal regulation regarding online gaming. Instead, Station Casinos tried and failed to do it themselves with Ultimate Poker. Even as the first and only operator in the niche for a short while, the profits made by Ultimate Poker were scarce, especially since only Nevada residents could legally use the site. 

During the Xyience debacle, the Fertittas also had peculiar connections to people disgraced by a scandal at Global Cash Access. One of the GCA flunkies, Kirk Sanford, ended up being the co-CEO of Xyience during a time when the company's collapse was inevitable. I had a meeting with Sanford and the other co-CEO Adam Frank before UFC 78: Validation in Newark, New Jersey. The two executives authorized full payment for my trip from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to meet with them and talk about the future in New York City just before the event in November of 2007. 

During that fateful sit-down, Sanford consistently maintained that the plan for Xyience was to go "scorched earth" on the investors. He also indicated this was the direction the Fertittas wanted to go with the situation. Throughout the holiday season that year, the supplement company that helped put the UFC on the map laid off multiple employees on the way to a particularly ugly bankruptcy, which was purposely orchestrated by the principals at Fertitta Enterprises


The Culinary Union in Las Vegas managed to emerge in recent years as particularly sharp thorns in the side of the Fertittas, thanks in part to their wing of researchers and writers outlining the shady history and strange bedfellows associated with Station Casinos. The union also famously contacted performers scheduled to come to Red Rock Casinos and discouraged them from doing so, among many other public protests and stunts. Now, the union is even trying to shut down the latest Station Casinos IPO attempt.

Their tactics of relentless and expensive campaigns to degrade the opposition begs the question: why would you want to work--even under favorable union conditions--for such underhanded individuals and their manipulative, wheel-greasing friends? I imagine the answer is the same one given by Willie Sutton when someone asked him why he robbed banks: "Because that's where the money is." UFC President Dana White responded to union attacks once by claiming the Station Casinos union deal would represent a $10 million per-year benefit for the culinary union itself.

I even wrote an article myself at one point wondering aloud why the union would squawk so much about the rights of UFC fighters if they weren't doing anything to actually create a fighters' union. Though some recent anti-trust suits against the UFC are working their way through the courts, these are being brought by fighters on the roster. The Culinary attacks on the UFC came out of left field in the context of what they were trying to do with organizing Station Casinos. My article basically asked the union bosses to put up or shut up in a little more nuanced terms. Much to my surprise, the union did make a play to attract interest in the fighter union concept last year, but not much has been done since then to make the dream a reality beyond a Web-site with no recent updates:

Fighters Agenda

The way the UFC brass treats some fighters and the poor pay rate prospects earn leaves too many competitors paying out of their own pockets to compete as professionals. Bills and expenses can bleed a fighter dry of any potential profits, and the lifelong negative effects of the injuries and stress of intense training and physical combat can be debilitating after retirement. The message sent by the UFC to many of their most hard-working young fighters is callous: working hard at your craft is worthless to your bosses if you can't entertain the fans when you step into the cage at an official UFC event. In the old school days of the Wild West, this mentality is the equivalent of the villain making his victim dance by shooting bullets at his feet. It was put on a show or die back then, and it's put on a show or forget about making a decent living now.


The Fertittas have become exceedingly talented when it comes to putting on a "show" of their own. They pretend to be honest, upstanding citizens in the public eye while behind the scenes they keep ruining lives as a means of lining their own pockets. The Red Rock Resorts IPO is yet another example of the Fertitta family making it look like they want to help other people make money when it's really their own bottom line they are ultimately and primarily concerned about.

As long as this family is involved as managing partners of this proposed RRR stock, they are free to execute the same scams and schemes they've used in the past to unjustly enrich themselves. My guess, based on years of investigation into Fertitta dealings, is that this family will make sure in the end that they will collect the highest dividends, even if the stock itself ends up being worth less than the paper it's printed on. That's how they roll, and the evidence and history doesn't lie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rich's New Book: Representing Yourself in Court


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Rich takes readers through two of his most intriguing cases where lawyers were hired with the specific purpose of silencing his work. Rich fought back, and this book is the result of his difficult struggle as an investigative reporter constantly seeking the truth about serious subjects.
Rich used the strategies in this book to overcome a $25 million lawsuit against him and to help generate serious publicity for the case of Lucille Iacovelli.
For just $20, you can have your very own copy of Rich’s book and read all about his battles against biased judges, billionaire casino barons and a doctor bent on keeping his critics from using his name. Click the following link or the book jacket photo above to order now.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Class Action Lawsuits Against Zuffa Set the Stage For an Interesting New Year

By: Rich Bergeron

Before you read this story, listen to Comedian Jim Gaffigan's take on legal documents for a good laugh:

Recently-filed class action cases brought by former and current UFC fighters against Zuffa, LLC are generating controversy and discussion from all corners of the MMA media. The first of these California-based cases hit the docket just as press releases went out to announce the filing. There was also a full-blown press conference celebrating the start of this intriguing course of litigation against the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the undisputed world leader of the sport of mixed martial arts.

At first, Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and Nate Quarry (L-R above) were the three faces of the legal action. Another filing naming plaintiffs Javier Vasquez and Dennis Hallman hit the California docket Tuesday with language that is reportedly nearly identical to the other case. A third filing appeared on Christmas Eve, another lump of coal in Zuffa's stocking. This time it was Pablo Garza and Brian Vera as plaintiffs. Duplication of proceedings can be a nice way of forcing the other side to spend more money than usual defending the first salvo. If there is good reason for the cases to go on separately without quick consolidation, it will be three times the hearings the opposing lawyers need to attend, three times the paperwork, and three times the aggravation.

An initial  statement from the UFC indicated that they had not even been served the documents yet after the first round of stories emerged on the subject. Lawsuits traditionally begin with prompt service of documents, which involves someone called a process server, or in some cases a deputy sheriff or even a U.S. Marshall actually handing the lawsuit documents to the company representative. This is serious legal business, since you can't win if the opposition isn't even aware you're suing them. Some defendants try to play games to refuse or avoid service, but once they are served, the case is official. If the UFC persists in saying they have not seen the documents, the plaintiffs can also argue that service is already accomplished through publication, which is sometimes a last resort.

Examining the crux of the legal arguments in the initial filing, I can only conclude that the case makes a ton of legal sense to me. I would even say it does not go far enough. As a person who can say I've done legal battle with the attorneys for Fertitta Enterprises (a holdings and investment company owned by the same Fertitta family that owns the UFC), I'm also convinced the UFC's parent company will attack this with a relentless army of specialized attorneys. They won't be the ones who charge $500 an hour that Gaffigan mentions above. Some of them will charge  much more than that for a phone call or a short consultation. The Fertitta-owned Station Casinos chain paid some of their bankruptcy lawyers as much as $900 per hour or more to carry that case through the court process.

These firms backing these fighters will have to be ready for all out war, and in many ways it was a crafty and cunning move to publicize this effort before it even became an official legal action. It also makes sense to duplicate the proceedings on the off chance that the cases end up before two, three, or even dozens of different judges as multiple stand-alone litigation streams instead of being consolidated at some point. Legal battles often hinge on the paperwork, and well-heeled firms aren't afraid to kill a few trees to overwhelm their opponents with copious amounts of reading material. Responses to everything in all cases would also have to be filed, each of those detailed legal documents requiring different content and unique defenses. It's actually more like what Zuffa does when pursuing their own worst enemies in the courts. They are used to being the big bully who always gets what he wants. This time, they might be facing an army of Davids against one Goliath.

Unfortunately, much of the mainstream combat sports media wants to remain in the UFC's good graces and will not publish a crooked word about the company. Most of the "news" sites that support the UFC no matter what will dismiss these legal proceedings as worthless and hopeless. That's really too bad, since the UFC's objectionable and corrupt business practices are laid bare in these legal documents. If you really count yourself as a fan or supporter of this promotion you should read this whole case despite the difficulty of the language and the dozens of pages involved. To access the full case document from the opening action, click here.

Trying as hard as I can to look at this case objectively, I do have some important questions to raise.

The first question is where are the financial figures coming from in these documents? There are claims like, "On information and belief, UFC Fighters are paid approximately 10-17% of total UFC revenues generated from bouts." Yet, there is no exhibit or affidavit this statement points to for proof. This is not to say I do not believe this could be possible. I just want to see where these financial estimations are coming from.

The second major question is why are these lawyers only pursuing this action on behalf of such a narrow group of the larger spectrum of victims that their described monopsony/monopoly scheme impacts?  The reality of conditions exposed in these documents cries out for other promotions, individual promoters, managers, agents, burned sponsors, trainers and other supporting staff to be included as plaintiffs. Perhaps I should just wait and see on this front. These firms filed three detailed lawsuits in a single week, so by next month there could be dozens. Like Gremlins, these furry little legal creatures could multiply and turn into monsters.

Finally, what is the average fighter's costs for a year of full time training? There ought to be a reflection of this somewhere in this suit. I would love to see a poll of UFC fighters asking this question. Also, what is the average yearly income of a mid-level UFC fighter, and what percentage does he or she keep after taxes and expenses? Some of this information could come out of the discovery process if the case goes that far. A Median Income Level would be an excellent baseline for these attorneys to show that the fighters were not getting their just due out of this raw deal they had to make with the UFC in order to compete at the "elite" level of the sport.

I am certain there are still fighters out there who literally wind up in the negative after each fight with their purses and bonuses going directly to paying off expenses. Travel and lodging, passports, training staff, management, medicals, and the countless other costs associated with a typical training camp can bring a fighter from $60,000 to zero in a heartbeat. I think this is the harshest reality that will be exposed in these litigation streams. Yes, the UFC has medical insurance, but fighters bear the costs of medical testing required for every fight. To get to the level where you are attracting huge show, win and bonus purses, you need to treat mixed martial arts training like a full time job. Fighters don't just drop out of the womb as seasoned experts at every discipline. It takes dedication, heart, patience, and in many cases copious amounts of money to get you and your entourage to the promised land. Sponsors can only chip in so much after they pay the UFC just for the privilege to be associated with you. Purses can dissolve before the fighter sees a penny.  

This case tackles a plethora of actions the UFC took to lock down the MMA marketplace as the dominant, controlling force. The Federal Trade Commission investigated many of the same circumstances and found no evidence that would lead to any formal action. The fact that the FTC was even looking into the fight promotion at all was headline news, but their lack of action made the UFC look as if it was vindicated of all monopoly and monospony claims. The reality is there are just too many obstacles to a government entity bringing such an action against such well-funded and well-positioned opponents. These agencies have to deal with red tape, politics, and influence peddling on top of trying to build a rock solid case while fighting against highly skilled corporate attorneys. It doesn't help that the Abu Dhabi government is in bed with the promotion by way of their 10 percent ownership of the UFC through Flash Entertainment. Talk about an unbreakable piggy bank!

The Fertittas are notorious wheel greasers, and they promote and support powerful politicians like Harry Reid with frequent donations and endorsements that Reid repays when he can. They are also traditionally very supportive of the Republican Party. Just because all their direct Mafia ties are long gone does not mean they forgot the art of maintaining "connected" status. This is why the FTC's refusal to bring charges does not really mean there was nothing concrete behind their concerns. The Fertittas are also responsible for a large chunk of taxes paid in the state of Nevada and California, and wherever else they do business across the country. Being an average Joe taxpayer isn't going to get you out of many major jams, but things change when you pay the kind of epic tax bills the Fertittas foot every year.

At the same time, a civil law firm does not have the same constraints to worry about. They're not playing with taxpayer money. They listen to their clients, not constituents or powerful politicians. They don't have to fear a backlash. Still, the court system can also be influenced through political channels. It's an uphill battle either way. So, even when there's plenty of smoke, there's no guarantee any of it will catch fire unless conditions are absolutely perfect. This may just be that time when the blaze finally erupts, but I would be more inclined to expect a quiet settlement once the first flicker of flame becomes visible here.

Reading this suit reminded me of so many cases of fighter favoritism, payment complaints, and the UFC's many moves made to squash the competition. I am reminded first of the IFL's demise and their longtime feud with the UFC. The creators of the IFL allegedly took the UFC's proprietary information when they left the company's employ to start their new team-based fight league. The resulting lawsuit revealed that Dana White personally threatened company employees at the time with termination if they did not all immediately sign a formal non-compete agreement.

I also served as an informal consultant to one of the lawyers handling the PRIDE suit against the UFC after promises to keep the top-tier MMA promotion viable were quickly broken. The money to purchase PRIDE actually came from something called a "senior secured credit facility" that is due next year. This complex loan and credit package totaled around $400 million, and even Billionaire Mark Cuban invested in the debt. This is ironic, especially since I actually received correspondence from Cuban during the time when he was battling the UFC in court to retain the services of Randy Couture in his own fledgling fight league (HDNet Fights) that never quite got off the ground. Cuban was trying to put together a Couture vs. Emelianenko fight, but the bout fans were screaming for would never happen due to the whole ugly legal debacle. 

Cuban told me in a personal email that he was keeping an eye on my case against the Fertittas, and it came as a bit of a shock. A true financial genius, he eventually figured out how to make money off the UFC with or without Randy on his payroll. I later questioned Cuban on the Fertittas owning Xyience, which at the same time was sponsoring the UFC. Cuban wrote back and explained that there is nothing inherently wrong with them doing that from a business ethics standpoint and the arrangement was perfectly above board. Still, I thought it was strange that the Fertittas seemed to go out of their way to obscure their ownership of their own sponsor.

The recent class action lawsuit takes time to further explain Couture's issues with the UFC, including his refusal to sign over his lifetime rights. At the time Couture took a stand against his former bosses, it was a move that was unheard of. Most fighters knew if they wanted to get anywhere in the industry, they had to maintain a friendly relationship with the UFC bosses and toe the company line. Couture was one of the promotion's success stories and could claim a healthy fan base and a huge part of the UFC's history. He didn't want to short change his legacy and struggled with the UFC over their demand for lifetime rights and other concessions. The feud would grow to be a bitter one. It's actually still simmering quietly in the wake of Couture being excluded from even being able to corner his own son when Ryan Couture was a UFC fighter for a brief stint.

I interviewed Ryan Couture personally in Las Vegas a few years ago, and he told me off camera that his father encouraged him to join Strikeforce because, "The UFC likes to keep you under their thumb." The UFC's buyout of Strikeforce eventually led to Ryan having to take the best offer that came along, which happened to be the UFC's. Losses to Ross Pearson and Al Iaquinta were enough to force the organization to part ways with Ryan, and he now fights for Bellator.

So, I have intimate knowledge of how this climate of dominance developed and how fighters have been conditioned to think that you can't fight the UFC, even if you have a legitimate beef. UFC fighters are taught from their earliest involvement with the company that you're better off being blindly loyal, staying perpetually quiet about any grievances you might harbor. Typically, fighters who do speak out are those who are above reprisal (i.e. Jose Aldo or Jon Jones) or obscure enough to dismiss as disgruntled nuts (i.e. Jacob Volkmann and John Cholish). The bulk of the UFC masses want to remain employed and on the rise, hoping for brighter days and bigger paychecks. Criticizing the company leadership is a great way to earn a demotion or guarantee that you'll never get a fight bonus again.

The case also highlights Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's past run-ins with the promotion he just recently re-joined after referring to his old bosses as "the devil you know" in a Twitter post. The complaint, which Jackson is not a party to but could still actually benefit from, describes how Jackson secured individual deals with a figurine company called Round 5 and sneaker giant Reebok before the UFC moved in and blocked these moves in favor of arranging their own longtime agreements with these companies.

Jackson and Tito Ortiz both departed the UFC for Bellator amid very public disputes regarding how their careers progressed under their UFC contracts. They both once had plenty to say about how much they were mistreated, but now they are singing what sounds like the same tune and avoiding run ins with this all-powerful force in the industry. Business is business, explains Jackson. Ortiz officially turned down the opportunity to join this round of lawsuits, citing his ongoing responsibilities as a manager and agent for fighters. In other words, he doesn't want to burn down the bridge he just began to rebuild after burning down the first one.

The basic gist behind Ortiz's motivation for opting out of the court battle is actually explained on page 47-48 of the initial complaint by Le, Quarry and Fitch:

 "Professional MMA Fighters who compete at the highest level of the sport cannot 'opt out' of UFC because the UFC’s anticompetitive conduct has made it impossible to maintain a successful MMA fighting career outside of the UFC."

So, if that statement is indeed correct, it's highly likely that Ortiz will bite his tongue and wind up following Jackson back to the UFC in the near future. Still, where some fighters are convinced the UFC will have their backs in the long run, others are buoyed by the suit and want in. One such fighter is Sean Sherk, who retired with a 36-4-1 record that included a long stint in the UFC. Like many fighters who are no longer in the inner circle of the company as fighting superstars or honorary executives, Sherk can't help but look back and feel cheated. What he put in seems to be exponentially greater than what he was able to reap in return as far as purses, profits and residual income. Sherk is the first fighter I've heard of supporting this case who actually owned a UFC belt at one time, so if he gets formally involved it will certainly be monumental.

Though many experts might think most current UFC fighters will refuse to sign up as plaintiffs for fear of reprisals or retaliation, it might also be hard for some to explain why they signed a petition that was reportedly circulated to UFC fighters in 2012 (as described by Pablo Garza). The petition reportedly asked fighters to confirm the promotion was not a monopoly and that all its fighters were treated fairly. The signatories of this petition might be used against the plaintiffs in these class action cases as proof that the UFC is running a reputable and upstanding operation with no hint of monopoly involved.
The reality is, there really are "company" fighters who get all the breaks while their lesser or equal counterparts continue to get the short end of the stick. This group of pampered active and retired insiders includes Chuck Liddell, Dominic Cruz, Gilbert Melendez, Daniel Cormier, Brian Stann, Dan Hardy and Kenny Florian (among others). Other than Liddell, they all have lucrative television gigs. Liddell has commercials instead with Duralast and Bud Light. I have never personally heard any of these guys present an argument that the UFC is in any way corrupt, greedy, or worthy of any significant criticism. You often find the same level of intense blind loyalty with whoever gets picked as a coach for The Ultimate Fighter. The lone exception may be Jason "Mayhem" Miller, who was hired more for comic relief than being a yes man. Sticking to the old company line is obviously being rewarded for most of the fighters who bite their tongues when it comes to lashing out against the company's management.

Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey are stars who are really almost bigger than the promotion, but they still wind up being sponsored by who the company wants to highlight most. I suppose they are fighters who still get treated like they can do or say no wrong, but they still have to stand by the main causes the company champions. They are spokespeople by default, shilling whatever they have to in order to remain loyal to their bosses. Both Rousey and Jones were sponsored by Xyience when the Fertittas owned it. Ronda is also the "prettiest" face involved in the UFC's frequently-airing commercials for a major cell phone network. Cain Velasquez is also featured in the same commercials. Jon Jones is also the first MMA athlete to sign on with DraftKings.Com as they assemble their very first Fantasy MMA offerings in time for his upcoming bout with Daniel Cormier.

The only hint of any major animosity shown toward the promotion by any of the above-named "company" fighters in my recollection was when Brian Stann retired and cited concerns regarding PED usage in the sport, the same sentiment Longtime UFC Welterweight Champion George St. Pierre pointed to as the main reason for his departure from the sport.

Stann also recently made a telling remark during last Saturday's UFC broadcast. During one fight that didn't live up to expectations, Stann stated that as a fighter, "You have to take risks if you want to make a name for yourself in the UFC." If anyone should know, it's Stann.

If you end up washed up or not making enough money, so many fans and UFC supporters (often called nuthuggers on MMA forums) will condemn you for not trying hard enough. It's your fault, no matter what, even if you spent half your own life savings trying to make it in the sport. Yet, the UFC is not a powerhouse because it has only successful and dynamic fighters. It takes some fighters who are not so dynamic and amazing to actually show how good the best fighters really are. Having these lower-tier fighters on board is essential, but their lack of extraordinary talent also makes it easier for the UFC brass to abuse these folks. The very design of the bonus system and the fighter pay structure encourages fighters to take risks in every fight in order to achieve success in the UFC. You can't just win by split decision on a smart, boring strategy and expect to get all the spoils of fame and fortune that fighters who always win by knockout get. It's no longer a case of winning being enough. You also have to put on a show to get anywhere in this organization. 

Even though he's not a perfect poster child for fighters who did everything right and still got shafted, Cody McKenzie's recent retirement is worth noting here. He recently expressed some major issues he had with working for the UFC and trying to survive on the outer fringes of the sport and failing. Though it would be easy to argue Cody and other complainers like the Diaz brothers just don't work hard enough, you could also make the claim that they were maybe convinced at some point along the line that working harder just wouldn't matter. Some people just either don't have that natural talent or simply have no chance of getting to the elite level of the sport. The cards really are stacked against some fighters, even though some of them possess all the talent in the world.

Whatever the reason a particular contender has for lacking supreme ass-kicking ability, being a halfway decent fighter also takes a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice in this sport. The effort put in by these less than superior combatants in the UFC is just as tremendous at times as those fighters who hold championship belts. Yet, the same effort rarely earns the same return under the UFC umbrella. It's all about popularity, positioning and performance in the UFC. You can't just work hard. You also have to suck up to the brass, align yourself with the right people, and just be a good soldier in general. Even if you get booted from the UFC at some stage of your career, you still have to keep quiet about your bad experiences if you ever want to make it back into the fold.

The UFC taught Cody McKenzie a hard life lesson. They basically told him to "go fish," which is actually a career the Alaskan native would have  been better off pursuing. After all, everything on the boat is paid for. There's no on-the-job travel expenses, trainer and management fees, or dependence on extra bonus money for superior performance. You show up, you work hard, you get paid, and you go home if you don't wind up in the hospital or on the bottom of the ocean due to some kind of tragic accident.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has a serious problem with the way they treat fighters, plain and simple. Does this lawsuit do enough to put a stop to it? I doubt it, personally. I envision this whole situation fading away quietly with each fighter getting a few million and the lawyers getting all their fees paid. All it will take is one or two bigger names coming out in support of or actually joining one of these classes of plaintiffs. There will be a point when the bad publicity and mounting sense of revolution will become too much for the UFC brass to bear, and they will pay a settlement. Nothing will actually change for the better in the long run if that happens.

For sweeping change to come out of any of this litigation, it will have to go to trial. People will have to testify, damning documents will have to be exposed in discovery, and fighters will have to tell the sordid details of their awful personal experiences with this all-powerful promoter for the record. No matter how dedicated the plaintiffs and their attorneys are, I doubt California's political climate and the possible favoritism of the Fertittas due to their casino and property interests in the state will allow this case to get to trial.

So, it makes for a good story and promotes healthy debate on the monopoly subject, but if any changes do eventually come out of this court battle, it will take years for them to take effect. The worst case scenario would be a climate where the lawsuit is actually killed before it gets off the ground, which is entirely possible if the UFC has that much behind-the-scenes influence in California.  

Nevertheless, this is a fantastic start in the quest to bring this organization to task for the way their overbearing actions negatively impact the sport of MMA as a whole. It is one thing to build something great while focusing only on your own business model and building it up from the initial concept into a worldwide force to be reckoned with. It is something else entirely to focus on destroying and/or minimizing everyone else in your niche to get to the top. Honesty is hardly ever the best policy in our capitalist way of doing business, though. Sometimes keeping secrets is actually crucial to a company's survival.

Consider the case of a guy named Ken Pavia who used to be a big player in the MMA industry and is now a bit more removed from the sport. Pavia shared some UFC contracts with Bellator and wound up on the business end of a Zuffa lawsuit against him. The debacle eventually led to Pavia leaving the country to work for an overseas fight promotion. Pavia told me during this period that Dana White personally threatened him over the situation, telling him that the company would do everything in its power to get revenge. He even claimed White told him he would not be happy until Pavia's fiance left him and he committed suicide. A countersuit filed on behalf of Bellator and Pavia helped initiate a settlement in the case that is not allowed to be discussed by either party. So, now the outcome of a case about company secrets is itself a company secret.

The point is, the UFC is constantly building up their power base, and they have tremendous pull when it comes to making or breaking a fighter under their employ. They can also make life difficult for anyone who may rely on their support to do business in the industry.

Often the courtroom can be the last place to look for any semblance of real justice, but the tide has to turn somewhere. Maybe it will turn here, but my outlook on the situation is colored by skepticism and personal experience with the type of lawyers the Fertittas hire and how they operate. I'm more inclined to think more publication and less legalese would be a better way to inspire change. A blockbuster documentary exposing fighter complaints, maybe with a few blurred faces and distorted voices, might go a lot further in blowing the lid off this corruption.

Unfortunately, there's also a chance that this behemoth is just too big already and nothing will be able to keep it in line. As these class action cases outline, the UFC has been at this monopoly building thing for a long time, and they're very adept at avoiding culpability for their worst transgressions. Still, all it will take is one honest judge in California who is willing to hear the case out and let it continue to a final conclusion. And it would certainly help to have a few more high caliber fighters coming out of the woodwork to join the cause and levy their own personalized complaints and grievances.

I have been harping on the possibility of a legal action like this against the UFC for a long time, ever since Dana White started saying he wanted the UFC to be as popular and powerful as the NFL someday. I predicted years ago that a class action lawsuit could be the only way to stop the rampant abuse many fighters under UFC contract face in trying to earn a respectable and comfortable living. Even the highest paid UFC athletes no doubt make a huge chunk of their income from sponsors and endorsements. The most famous fighters also get movie roles on top of all that, so there's not much to complain about. Yet, what does it say about the sport and the owners of the biggest promotion in the sport when even their top athletes aren't making a luxurious living off the actual wages they're paid? Why should they need to depend on all this outside income when the profits of the promotion make it possible for them to be compensated much better without all that hoopla?

The answer to those questions may be more simple than you think. It all amounts to one short word, just five letters long: GREED. And the UFC brass is so downright greedy that I can't imagine them spending more on a settlement than they would be willing to shell out on the army of legal bulldogs it will take for them to crush their opposition here. When you are as corrupt and conniving as the Fertittas and Dana White, lawyers can be the most important piece of the puzzle. Some of the sleaziest attorneys are just as likely to advise you on how to break the law through sophisticated maneuvering as they are to help you make sure to follow it to the letter. The kind of lawyers employed by these folks are the ones all the lawyer jokes are really made for. Many of them already sold their souls to the highest bidder, and they have no scruples or morals remaining to stop them from taking these valid fighter complaints and turning them into a puff of smoke.

I, for one, will be rooting for the fighters to score a key victory here that finally exposes the UFC for taking advantage of the very people who made the organization what it is today. The publication of the suit itself goes a long way in doing just that, but results are what will really matter in this case. This legal team has the personnel and the persistence to make things interesting, but what they really need is to secure a final judgment or at the very least get to trial.

Stay tuned as we follow this case to see if any of this legal wrangling will pan out for the plaintiffs in the long run. I know one of the folks behind this case is interested in starting a fighters union at some point, so even if the case settles it might lead to some financing for that future endeavor. This development might not represent a perfect plan to revolutionize the way the UFC does business, but it's a damn good start as far as attempting to root out some of the corruption and mistreatment some of the promotion's fighters endure. I will keep a sharp eye on these cases as they play out and pass on new documents and developments as I acquire them.