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UFC Owners: Antitrust Settlement Ends with ‘No Further Changes to UFC’s Existing Business Operations’

The UFC settled two antitrust lawsuits in March, planning to pay $335 million over the next year, but the settlement appears to have had no impact on how the promotion plans to continue doing business.

On Wednesday, during the quarterly earnings call with TKO Group Holdings – the combined company that brings together the UFC and WWE – both TKO CEO Ari Emanuel and CFO Andrew Schleimer released prepared statements discussing the resolution of the antitrust lawsuits, along with payment details and its impact on the business.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter without making further changes to UFC’s existing business operations,” Schleimer said on the call. “A long-term settlement is expected to be submitted to the court for approval soon.”

Emanuel repeated this statement with one of his own, which sounded almost verbatim to Schleimer and concerned the end of antitrust lawsuits.

“We have removed all claims arising from the UFC antitrust lawsuits, bringing an end to this matter, without making any further changes to our existing business operations,” Emanuel said in a prepared statement.

Based on these statements, which clearly state that the settlement was resolved without further changes to the UFC’s existing business operations, it appears that the only blow to the promotion was the financial penalty paid to the fighters filing the lawsuits.

Two separate lawsuits were filed, the first of which in 2014 alleged that the UFC engaged in a “scheme to obtain and maintain monopoly power in the market for services to elite professional MMA fighters.” The fighters argued that the UFC achieved this goal through three key elements: exclusive contracts, coercion and takeovers that eliminated potential competitors.

The plaintiffs in this case originally sought damages ranging from $894 million to $1.6 billion.

A major part of the original lawsuit, which ultimately led to the courts issuing class certification, was the UFC’s alleged use of long-term, exclusive contracts that kept fighters tied to the promotions and prevented them from considering options with other promotions.

While the full settlement has not yet been disclosed, TKO Group Holdings’ statement made it clear that there are no other changes to the way UFC operates beyond the financial payments.

Regarding the payment, Schleimer also revealed that the full $335 million was included in the first-quarter 2024 results, which is why the company reported a net loss of $249.5 million. Actual payments will be made in three installments over the next year.

It is expected that the settlement will also constitute a tax expense for TKO.

“As previously disclosed, the total settlement amount is $335 million,” Schleimer explained. “We have recorded a charge for the full amount in the first quarter, which will be paid in three installments – $100 million in this quarter, $100 million in (the fourth quarter) and the final $135 million in the second quarter of 2025.

“It is anticipated that the settlement will be deductible for tax purposes at the time of payment. As a result, we expect that our tax payments to members under the requirements of our premium fee structure will be significantly reduced and, accordingly, we will not experience an adverse impact on the dollar-to-cash-on-hand exchange rate.”

The courts still have to sign off on the settlement, but since both parties have already agreed to the terms, it seems unlikely that the settlement will be rejected.

This finally ends the decade-long battle between the fighters and the UFC, as both antitrust lawsuits are now closed.