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UFC doling out $300M to celeb investors amid fighters' underpayment complaints: Report

·2 min read

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is coughing up heaps of money in dividends to big-name investors, including Hollywood giants Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell and celebs like Mark Wahlberg and Gisele Bundchen, according to the New York Post.

But the money is being doled out despite an ongoing legal battle between some of the mixed martial arts fighters, who have claimed in federal court that they were underpaid, according to the report.

MMA officials approved the $300 million dividends for its investors, such as UFC exec Dana White and bigwigs Emanuel and Whitesell, who will receive more than $3 million as part of the cash-out, the Post reported, citing sources.

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This is the UFC's first dividend payout since Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor entertainment agency, paid $4 billion in 2016 to acquire a 50 percent stake, according to the report.

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Whitesell is Endeavor's executive chairman and was once married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez.

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Wahlberg, an actor and producer, will pocket approximately $500,000, the Post reported. Supermodel Bundchen, whose longtime Patriot husband Tom Brady is set to become a free agent in March, is expected to get $145,000. Other celebs reportedly slated to receive a payout include Charlize Theron, Venus and Serena Williams and Ben Affleck.

But the multimillion-dollar dividend payout leaves only $50 million left for the UFC, according to the outlet.

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In 2014, former UFC fighters filed a suit in Las Vegas federal court, seeking class-action status, accusing the MMA giant of using "an anticompetitive scheme of long-term exclusive fighter contracts, coercion, and acquisitions of rival MMA promoters to establish and maintain dominance in the MMA industry and suppress fighter compensation," according to a Forbes report on developments in the suit. The case is still ongoing.

Mark Shapiro, president of Endeavor, told the Post the entertainment agency pays its fighters "significantly more than any other MMA organization."

"They deserve it," he said. "Fighter compensation has gone up commensurately with the success of UFC."

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