April 25, 2024

The only real threat to that stranglehold was a class-action lawsuit against the UFC, that had been set to go to federal trial in Nevada in mid-April. The suit was introduced by Quarry and a handful of other fighters a decade ago. The plaintiffs allege that the UFC uses its market dominance to squash competition and suppress the wages of its athletes. UFC fighters are paid less than 15 percent of the UFC’s total profits, whereas players in other major sporting organizations like the NFL and NBA receive closer to 50 percent. Quarry, who fought for the UFC middleweight title in 2005 and retired in 2010, made as little as $10,000 per fight during his 10-appearance career in the UFC.

“You see fighters who are begging for bonuses, fighters that have to go on GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaigns to pay for medical emergencies, hip replacements, treatments that they’ve needed from their fighting career in MMA because there’s no protection for them whatsoever,” Quarry said.

TKO Group Holdings reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit on March 13th, preventing a bruising court battle. As part of that settlement, which still requires court approval, the UFC agreed to pay the fighters in the class action a settlement of $335 million. Although ostensibly a win for the fighters on a surface level, the settlement is a huge long term victory for the UFC. Without any injunctive relief and with the settlement representing a small fraction of potential damages, the UFC’s grip on the sport of MMA is now secured, making it an even more tantalizing target for the Trump campaign. Relatively new, openly confrontational, countercultural, with a flair for theatrics, the UFC is a perfect avatar for the MAGA brand—and a means of putting Trump in front of a massive audience that is both overwhelmingly male and disproportionately Black and Latino, two demographics among which Trump has gained ground in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election.