Lobbying is an ever-present side of U.S. politics. To place it merely, those that can afford to take part, pay groups of execs to schmooze politicians with hopes that legal guidelines shall be made, damaged, softened or hardened to go well with their pursuits.

The UFC is like each different profitable company in America. Over the previous decade they’ve utilized lobbying in makes an attempt to have an effect on US legal guidelines. However who, what and the way did they do all this lobbying? And the way efficient was it? That’s what this sequence hopes to seek out out.

Over the approaching weeks you’ll discover lobbying studies detailing what lobbyists have been paid to do on behalf of the UFC. You’ll uncover that the promotion’s pursuits are somewhat restricted. Nevertheless, inside that slender scope the battle sport purveyor has proven a substantial amount of dedication. Their investments haven’t all the time paid off, however on one or two events, ZUFFA money has doubtless contributed to little identified, but nonetheless dramatic, shifts in lawmaking and coverage on the highest ranges of presidency.

Earlier than we delve into the numbers, first let’s define what lobbying is and the rules which can be supposed to maintain it in examine.

Lobbying has been round since human beings have been in a position to type energy buildings. In the US of America the practise has been going robust ever for the reason that paperwork that pulled that nation into being had been drafted. Early lobbyists maintained that their makes an attempt to sway these in energy had been lined by each the newly minted proper to petition and freedom of speech.

By the 1970s lobbying had develop into so woven into the fibre of US politics that each determination being made within the nation might be tracked again to particular curiosity teams and the eye (or cash) they spent on politicians.

In 1995 Congress handed The Lobbying Disclosure Act to create extra transparency relating to lobbying on the federal degree. This regulation meant that every one lobbyists needed to register with the Clerk of the US Home of Representatives and the Secretary of the US Senate and that they need to log all of their exercise. Inside these logs lobbyists should expose who their shoppers are and the way a lot they’re getting paid. Lobbyists should additionally expose what points their shoppers are paying for them to foyer.

Because of this regulation there’s a huge quantity of public information accessible that catalogues all of the federal lobbying exercise in the ussince the late 90s. For our functions, this implies we all know precisely who and what ZUFFA LLC has lobbied (at a federal degree).

Based mostly on paperwork acquired by Bloody Elbow we all know that ZUFFA has been lively on the earth of lobbying since 2008. On this, the primary of this sequence of studies, we are going to have a look at their first forays into US politics and the way their efforts picked up steam because the years went on.

Right here’s a breakdown on the lobbying ZUFFA performed between 2008 and 2012, throughout the first half of the Obama Presidency.


Employed lobbying agency Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP.

Paid BHFS $320,000.

BHFS lobbied on the next points: combined martial arts and S.84-Skilled Boxing Amendments Act of 2007 & H.R.4031-Skilled Boxing Amendments.


Paid BHFS $320,000.

BHFS lobbied on combined martial arts and piracy of copyrighted programming.


Paid BHFS $320,000.

BHFS lobbied on combined martial arts, piracy of copyrighted programming and web playing.


Paid BHFS $260,000.

BHFS lobbied on combined martial arts and on-line streaming piracy/piracy of copyrighted programming.

Employed SB Strategic Consulting.

Paid SB $40,000.

SB lobbied on on-line streaming piracy and on-line gaming points.


Paid BHFS $640,000.

BHFS lobbied on combined martial arts and on-line streaming piracy points.

Paid SB $120,000.

SB lobbied on on-line streaming piracy and on-line gaming points.

Complete quantity ZUFFA LLC spent on lobbying in 2008-2012: $2,020,000.

Now we we all know the numbers concerned over this span, let’s dive into the precise points and the equipment ZUFFA accessed in makes an attempt to sway issues of their favour.

‘Combined Martial Arts’ or how one can win at Monopoly

ZUFFA LLC dba Final Preventing Championship (UFC) first turned an official lobbying consumer on April 1, 2008. That’s after they registered with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP.

BHFS is likely one of the US’s largest lobbying corporations. In the present day they’ve round 250 lobbyists on employees. They had been based, as a regulation agency, in 1968 by College of Colorado Regulation Faculty alums Norman Brownstein, Jack Hyatt and Steve Farber. The agency started lobbying in 1995. In 2007 they merged with an organization owned by Frank Schreck, who’s the previous chairman of the Nevada Gaming Fee.

Schreck was additionally the legal professional of Frank Fertitta Jr., father to former UFC homeowners Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta. In line with the Las Vegas Solar it was Schreck who helped the Fertitta household patriarch get his gaming license. So it’s simple to guess how ZUFFA LLC and BHFS began doing enterprise collectively.

Of their Lobbying Registration type the UFC’s ‘normal lobbying subject areas’ are listed as ART (arts/leisure), COM (communications/broadcasting/radio/TV) and LBR (labor points/antitrust/office).

By 2008 the UFC’s battle for survival felt like a distant reminiscence. The game, because of the success of the preliminary The Final Fighter sequence, had gotten its hooks into fringe popular culture and was surging in direction of changing into a mainstream sport.

Georges St-Pierre after defeating Jon Fitch throughout the UFC 87 on August 9, 2008.
Picture by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

The UFC’s improve in recognition was given a significant shot within the arm when WWE celebrity Brock Lesnar joined the corporate and made his debut in February 2008. Regardless of dropping to Frank Mir by kneebar, Lesnar’s inclusion within the Octagon would earn the UFC a few of its biggest publicity to this point. Lesnar fought two extra occasions in 2008, getting his first UFC wins over Heath Herring and Randy Couture.

Presently the UFC was additionally in its ‘Dominant Champion Period’ with each Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva trying unbeatable atop their divisions. In 2008 GSP retained his title from Matt Sera after which bested Jon Fitch. ‘The Spider’ spent the yr handing losses to Patrick Cote and former Satisfaction champ Dan Henderson. B.J Penn was prime of the meals chain at light-weight with bloody wins over Sean Sherk and Joe Stevenson.

With the promotion rising out of obscurity, because of a fleet of fascinating and ferocious stars, ZUFFA sought to put money into the way forward for the corporate by means of lobbying.

Of their first yr with BHFS the UFC coughed up 4 funds of $80,000 for a complete of $320,000. Within the lobbying disclosure kinds this cash was designated for lobbying on the next ‘points’: ‘Combined Martial Arts’ and ‘S.84-Skilled Boxing Amendments Act of 2007 & H.R.4031-Skilled Boxing Amendments Act of 2007’.

‘Combined martial arts’ could be listed as a problem on disclosure kinds for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 as effectively.

Sadly, lobbying disclosure kinds don’t present any extra info than that with regards to what’s being lobbying. We don’t know whether or not lobbyists are being informed to foyer for or towards one thing and we don’t know if there are particular elements of a problem that’s of specific curiosity to a consumer.

The disclosure kinds additionally don’t title the politicians that had been contacted by lobbyists. They solely reveal which branches of Congress or which Federal businesses had been being lobbied.

So we’re left having to make just a few assumptions. Nevertheless, we will make some fairly good guesses concerning the UFC’s positions on quite a lot of points. The particular lobbyists listed on the kinds additionally give us a good suggestion of what members of Congress or businesses they’d be greatest expert at back-channeling.

For the lobbying of merely ‘Combined Martial Arts’ we may assume that which means that the UFC are paying to have the game introduced to varied politicians as a part of a PR marketing campaign, to show that MMA is a reputable sport and a far cry from the ‘human cock-fighting’ label that nearly handed the game a demise blow (courtesy of the late Senator John McCain).

Nevertheless, while you have a look at the lobbyists listed as engaged on this particular case, it appears attainable that a part of this lobbying effort was to buttress towards future allegations that the UFC is working a monopoly (as alleged within the present ant-trust lawsuit ZUFFA is preventing in courtroom).


Makan Delrahim, former ZUFFA lobbyist and up to date US Assistant Lawyer Basic Antitrust Division.
Picture credit score ought to learn NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP through Getty Photographs

Beginning in 2008 Makan Delrahim is listed as one of many lobbyists underneath the ‘Combined Martial Arts’ subject. Earlier than he turned a lobbyist Delrahim was Deputy Assistant Lawyer Basic for the DOJ’s Antitrust Division underneath the administration of George W. Bush. He was additionally commissioner of the Antitrust Modernization Fee.

Given his background and connections Delrahim was greater than able to presenting robust arguments on behalf of the UFC when it got here to ZUFFA’s enterprise practises and the corporate’s opinion that they weren’t a monopoly and weren’t violating any anti-trust legal guidelines.

In 2016 Delrahim wrote an oped praising then Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump and imploring that Republicans get behind their candidate. After Trump was elected Delrahim labored on the brand new President’s transition staff and inauguration. He was then employed as deputy White Home counsel.

In 2017 Donald Trump made him Assistant Lawyer Basic for the US Division of Justice’s Antitrust Division. And so the person who spent years defending the UFC over anti-trust legal guidelines was handed management of the federal government company that pursued corporations for anti-trust violations.

Delarhim misplaced his place in authorities when Trump was defeated by President Joe Biden in 2020. His alternative is William Baer, who has a popularity for going after monopolies and imposing antitrust legal guidelines.

Delrahim’s place on monopolies has been summarized as monopolies are authorized so long as they don’t abuse their monopoly powers (per New York Instances). Although he had been seen as smooth on monopolies, The Wall Road Journal famous that in his tenure he took some sudden anti-monopoly actions, corresponding to suing to cease AT&T purchase Time Warner. Delrahim’s critics state that his actions both for or towards monopolies had been dictated purely by whether or not or not Trump appreciated or disliked the businesses concerned.

Given Delrahim’s specialty it’s a cheap assumption to make that from 2008 onward he was within the trenches for ZUFFA in Washington, D.C. ensuring his consumer wouldn’t get tagged as a monopoly. In later posts we’ll observe how lengthy Delrahim works this project. We don’t know if Delrahim, after reaching probably the most highly effective place in US authorities close to anti-trust and monopolies, continued to look out for corporations who was once his shoppers, however if he did ZUFFA couldn’t have had a extra highly effective ally in defending them from anti-trust accusations.

Different lobbyists working the ‘Combined Martial Arts’ subject on behalf of ZUFFA embrace William Moschella, who was US Assistant Lawyer Basic for the Workplace of Legislative Affairs underneath President George W. Bush. Throughout his time in workplace he was instrumental in modifications to the Patriot Act that allowed interim US Attorneys to serve indefinite phrases.

House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Fired US Attorneys

William Moschella testifying at Capitol Hill in 2007 relating to the controversial Bush-era firings of federal attorneys.
Picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photographs

Moschella was additionally concerned within the controversial 2007 firings of seven US Attorneys. It was alleged that these attorneys had been faraway from their positions by President Bush as a result of they’d didn’t provoke investigations that might goal Democratic politicians and their supporters. In entrance a Home Judiciary Committee Moschella testified that the White Home didn’t play a job within the firings. Although e-mail proof would show this testimony to be inaccurate.

Additionally on the ‘Combined Martial Arts’ staff in 2008 had been BHFS accomplice Norman Brownstein, Democratic strategist Alfred Mottur, Sarah Thornton (former legislative assistant for Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)) and Kathryn Bentfield (who would go on to work on the previous Massachusetts Governor Invoice Weld’s 2020 presidential marketing campaign).

Within the second half of 2009 the ‘Combined Martial Arts’ staff diminished to only Delrahim, Moschella and Brownstein. From the second quarter of 2010 by means of 2012 it was simply Delrahim and Moschella. Delrahim and Moschella dealt with all different ZUFFA lobbying duties for BHFS throughout this time, too.

Killing a US-wide boxing/MMA fee

In 2008 ZUFFA’s lobbying disclosure kinds immediately reference S.84-Skilled Boxing Amendments Act of 2007 & H.R.4031-Skilled Boxing Amendments.

The staff who labored on lobbying these payments for ZUFFA included Brownstein, Delrahim, Moschella and Thornton. Becoming a member of them was David Cohen, Alexander Dahl and James Flood.

Cohen was a part of the Whitewater examine employees that appeared into the actual property dealings of President Invoice Clinton. Later he labored within the U.S. Customs Service and have become Deputy Nationwide Political Director for the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee.

Dahl was an Assistant U.S. Lawyer for the District of Columbia. He left BHFS in 2018. Presently he’s Basic Counsel for Attorneys for Civil Justice and the founding father of the lobbying agency Strategic Coverage Counsel.

Flood is a former counsel to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Assistant U.S. Lawyer on the U.S. Division of Justice. He labored for BHFS between 2007 and 2013 and later joined the lobbying agency Crowell & Moring.

S.84 and H.R 4031 had been an identical payments that had been submitted to the US Senate and US Home of Representatives respectively in 2007. The Senate invoice was launched by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and the Home invoice was launched by Peter King (R-NY).

Senator John McCain meeting with former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield and then UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones at an event focused on head injury prevention in 2015.

Senator John McCain assembly with former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield after which UFC mild heavyweight champion Jon Jones at an occasion targeted on head damage prevention in 2015.

The payments tried to create a federal commissioning physique referred to as the US Boxing Fee. The USBC would have changed the varied state commissioning our bodies—just like the Nevada State Athletic Fee and California State Athletic Fee—and been liable for the regulation of all boxing that occurred within the US.

The payments additionally included language that might “prohibit any individual from arranging, selling, organizing, producing, or preventing in a match inside the US except the match is accepted by the USBC and is held in a state or on tribal land that regulates skilled boxing matches in accordance with requirements and standards established by the USBC.”

The payments additionally proposed measures to make sure honest remedy for boxers and extra sturdy well being and security necessities.

Each payments had been referred to committees, however neither ever made it to a vote. They died when the 110th Congress ended on January 3, 2009. Neither invoice was reintroduced after that.

Based mostly on the lobbying disclosure kinds alone it’s unattainable to know for positive whether or not ZUFFA was lobbying for or towards the invoice.

If the payments had been handed, and the scope of the payments had been expanded to combined martial arts, the UFC would have needed to drastically change how they did enterprise. Their relationship with the NSAC, and different state commissions, would have been rendered redundant and they might have been compelled to work with a brand new physique primarily based out of Washington D.C.

Who watches the UFC watchers? ZUFFA’s first forays into on-line piracy regulation

In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 the problems of piracy had been included on ZUFFA’s lobbying disclosure kinds. It was worded two completely different method throughout studies: “on-line streaming piracy points” and “piracy of copyrighted programming”.

In 2011 and 2012 the studies received extra particular, itemizing the next laws:

  • S.978-A invoice to amend the legal penalty provision for legal infringement
  • S.968-Stopping Actual On-line Threats to Financial Creativity and Theft of Mental Property Act of 2011
  • H.R.3261-Cease On-line Piracy Act

In 2009 the lobbyists working the piracy beat for BHFS had been Brownstein, Delrahim and Moschella.

In 2010 they had been joined by Dahl. In 2011 and 2012 it was simply Delrahim and Moschella working this beat (and all different ZUFFA beats).

Beginning in 2011, Along with BHFS, ZUFFA additionally employed SB Strategic Consulting Inc. to foyer on on-line streaming piracy points.

SB Strategic Consulting is operated by Scott Bensing and Ryan Cherry. Bensing is former Government Director of the Nationwide Republican Senatorial Committee. He’s a former Chief of Workers for Senator John Ensign. Ensign was a US Senator for Nevada between 2001 and 2011. Ensign resigned in 2011 after a Senate Ethics Committee investigation appeared into his affair with a lady who labored for a Political Motion Committee that supported his election campaigns.

Cherry is a former Chief of Workers for Nevada Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison. On all of the disclosure kinds relating to SB’s work for ZUFFA, Bensing is the one individual named lobbying on their behalf.

Like lots of the lobbyists working for BHFS, Bensing’s time in authorities was spent solely inside the Republican social gathering. So we may assume that almost all of his lobbying efforts had been directed at fellow Republicans.

We will additionally make an enormous assumption concerning the place Bensing and the crew from BHFS had been lobbying for with regards to ZUFFA and on-line piracy. And that’s that ZUFFA was completely paying these corporations to foyer for extra sturdy policing of on-line piracy and stiffer penalties for these deemed to have infringed on copyright.

We will make this assumption because of UFC President Dana White’s public feedback relating to piracy. White’s views on piracy border on the fanatical with disdain constantly being expressed for unlawful streaming of UFC occasions and his hopes that these accountable are caught and face the harshest penalties accessible.

Sadly for ZUFFA, the businesses first try to alter US regulation to make issues harder on pirates hit a brick wall.

S.968-Stopping Actual On-line Threats to Financial Creativity and Theft of Mental Property Act of 2011 aka (the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) and S.978-A invoice to amend the legal penalty provision for legal infringement had been each launched on Could 12, 2011 within the US Senate.

The PROTECT IP act was launched by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). S.978-A was launched by Senator Amy Klobucher (D-MN).

Klobucher’s invoice was co-sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Christopher Coons (D-DE). The invoice sought to amend the federal legal code to extend the penalty for legal infringement of copyright.

Particularly the invoice focused offences that consisted of 10 or extra public performances by digital means throughout an 180-day interval the place both the whole retail worth of the performances would, if bought legally, exceed $2,500 or the license to supply these performances would exceed $5,000.

An illegally streamed UFC pay-per-view that was seen by round 40 individuals on a single night time would have match this standards.

The invoice would have made the penalty for this offences as much as 5 years in jail in addition to a nice.

A month after this invoice was launched it was despatched to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Throughout a committee listening to on Oversight of Mental Property Regulation Enforcement Efforts on June 22, 2011 the modification was mentioned. In that listening to Senator Leahy gave a gap assertion saying that the invoice would praise his PROTECT IP Act. Nevertheless, Klobuchers’s invoice would by no means obtain a vote on the Senate flooring and so it died when the 112th Congress ended on January 3, 2013.

The PROTECT IP Act additionally didn’t make it out of committee and was not reintroduced after the 112th Congress ended. The trail to get there was much more fascinating than what occurred with Klobucher’s modification, although.

Leahy’s invoice was launched with 11 co-sponsors and would add 20 extra. Amongst these co-sponsors had been distinguished Democrats together with Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Republicans John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC). Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) additionally co-sponsored the invoice.

The invoice was an try at sweeping reforms to US copyright regulation that might have given copyright holders extra instruments to fight “rogue web sites devoted to the sale of infringing or counterfeit items”. The invoice was particularly geared toward abroad pirates who had been infringing on US primarily based copyright holders.

Opposition to the invoice was instant and sturdy. Opponents in Congress warned that the invoice may injury freedom of speech, innovation and web integrity. Corporations who opposed the invoice (and would have lobbied towards it) included web giants Fb, Google, Yahoo!, eBay and Reddit. The charitable organizations Reporters With out Borders, Human Rights Watch and Wikipedia additionally opposed the invoice.

Opposition from the tech business included a letter to lawmakers that claimed the invoice would, “harm financial progress and chill innovation in reputable providers that assist individuals create, talk, and earn cash on-line”

Wikipedia and different web sites staged blackouts to precise opposition to the invoice.

After witnessing this opposition to the invoice the White Home commented that, although it believed combating on-line piracy is essential, it believed the PROTECT IP act was too excessive in its potential for creating on-line censorship and inhibiting innovation.

These phrases from the White Home just about killed the invoice. Days later Senate Majority Chief Harry Reid introduced {that a} vote on the invoice could be postponed till points had been resolved. The invoice was by no means heard of once more.

People hold signs at a protest by the te

A protest towards the PROTECT IP Act and Cease On-line Piracy Act in New York Metropolis on January 18, 2012.
Picture credit score ought to learn STAN HONDA/AFP through Getty Photographs

H.R.3261-Cease On-line Piracy Act (or SOPA) was launched on October 26, 2011, after PIPA was launched, however earlier than that invoice was taken down by opposition voices.

SOPA was launched by Consultant Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) and had bi-partisan assist within the type of 23 co-sponsors. It was similar to PIPA and suffered an an identical destiny. This one didn’t even make it to committee.

The UFC invested in lobbying all three of those payments, doubtless as a result of they needed to see them was regulation. Nevertheless, their funding was closely outweighed by those that had been preventing towards the invoice. No matter lobbying energy they may exert was absolutely overshadowed by what Fb and Google had been doing, each within the halls of Congress and with their on-line advocacy towards the invoice.

These payments most likely characterize ZUFFA’s first strikeouts within the sport of lobbying. Nevertheless, with regards to preventing piracy, the sport for ZUFFA didn’t finish right here.

Dabbling in web playing

The one different subject talked about in lobbying disclosure paperwork between 2008 and 2012 is ‘web playing.’

BHFS had this subject on their books for ZUFFA in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Delrahim and Moschella dealt with the difficulty every of these years. Dahl was concerned in 2010 and Mottur helped out in 2010 and 2011.

In 2012 the Nevada primarily based Bensing additionally received concerned.

With no particular laws listed on the kinds it’s arduous to know precisely what ZUFFA had been lobbying for right now. It’s unknown if these efforts had been in pursuit of particular points relating to on-line betting on the UFC or if these efforts had been designed to profit the Fertitta Brothers different enterprise; Station Casinos.


From trying on the documentation accessible we will observe the early historical past of the UFC’s lobbying actions somewhat effectively. We all know that their entry into this world was with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, an organization with a deep connection to the Fertitta household. And we will see that their first salvos with lobbying had been modest and profitable.

The $320,000 ZUFFA invested in lobbying in 2008 was spent on efforts relating to a federal nationwide boxing fee (which we assume they didn’t need to occur) and their marketing campaign to advocate for ‘combined martial arts’ (or their stance that the UFC was not a monopoly).

If 2008 was seen as successful by ZUFFA, that will have emboldened the corporate to attempt to attain past points immediately affecting MMA, particularly on-line piracy.

After two years of lobbying this subject, they upped their ante in 2011 and 2012, hiring a second lobbying agency to bolster their efforts on the difficulty. As they did this, three focal factors for his or her activism got here into mild within the type of payments that might have made life a lot harder for pirates.

ZUFFA threw down for PIPA and SOPA, paying their lobbyists greater than they ever had, however they had been knocked out because of the heavyweights preventing on the opposite facet of the difficulty.

After tasting some success after which an enormous defeat, the place did ZUFFA go from right here? We’ll reply that in our subsequent report, protecting 2012-2016.


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