Posted: 07 May 2014 09:15 AM PDT
As detailed in our article last week, the UFC has launched its biggest legal action to date against an individual said to have uploaded its events to the Internet without authorization.
Late last month UFC parent company Zuffa filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York targeting Steven A. Messina from New York, someone they believe to be the combat sports releaser ‘Secludedly’. The news was broken by the New York Post who reported that the 27-year-old lives in his parent’s basement, but on the day of the news they knew an awful lot more than Messina did.
Last to know
“I didn’t know any of this was even happening,” Messina told TorrentFreak in an interview conducted on restricted terms for legal reasons.
“A relative recognized my name in the New York Post and word got to me through phone, and people were wondering if it was me. Now, I’m rarely out of my house, ever. I’m sick. So I am like, ‘How the hell can I be in the Post?’ I decided to look it up, and hello, there I am. Then the Internet started going crazy about it, and everyone is getting all this information that I have no clue how they are getting, most of it totally wrong!”
It took two full days for the UFC to send the papers to Messina after he learned about them in the media but once he read them the seriousness of the situation began to sink in. The claims from the UFC are for just over $32 million but Messina’s estimations vary from $35m to as much as $40m.
“There were no police involved, no criminal actions taken. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand the laws and all that around this type of thing, so I’m a little lost here and overwhelmed. I don’t even know what is going on. I think people on the Internet know more than me.”
Five months ago, there were signs
As our discussions progressed it became clear that while last week’s legal sledgehammer from Zuffa came as a surprise, this was not the first time that the company had shown an interest in Messina. Several months ago Messina was informed by PayPal that his account had been frozen after he had accepted donations from people who were helping him buy UFC PPV events. Messina said any surplus was spent on medication.
“PayPal told me that the UFC filed a claim of some sort on my account and limited it, so I could never use it again. I am assuming UFC subpoenaed PayPal or something for my information and then just caved without even defending me or my rights. That was five months ago. Then last week is when I suddenly saw the news, got the letter, etc etc. I never even had an opportunity to tell them I didn’t do whatever it was they claimed I did.”
Messina, who says he suffers from a range of psychiatric conditions including agoraphobia, panic, anxiety and bipolar disorders, claims to rarely go outside and spent an entire four-year unbroken stretch in his New York bedroom. Add to that an arthritic spine and a herniated stomach, he hasn’t been able to work for three years. When PayPal froze his account he was cut off from his medication.
“When PayPal closed my account, I was low on money and needed medication that week, and I still had $50 or so in my account, but I wasn’t allowed to use it, making my life that much more difficult.”
Zuffa claim that Messina was making a small fortune from donations, even adding “XYZ Corp” as a defendant (along with a John and Jane Doe) in their lawsuit against Messina.
“I do not know myself what this XYZ Corp or John and Jane Doe is. I think they are assuming ‘Secludedly’ was a group, rather than just a person, but at the same time, ‘Secludedly’ is mentioned as a single person as well. None of it makes sense.”
But was Messina making anything from people donating to his event-viewing fund?
“Most of the time I barely had enough to cover an event’s cost after donations and would use my own money saved for medication and doctors. In total, I’ve probably made no more in a year than $450-$550 in donations. But just that helped me pay for a few months of medical expenses, as well as maybe four or five fight cards. I always ended up paying out of my own pocket though, as I’ve had money from my previous job saved in my checking account.”
Big UFC fan
While Zuffa are portraying Messina as their nemesis, the 27-year-old says he has spent years supporting the company as a dedicated fan.
“It’s always the one you love the most that can hurt you the most. I love the UFC. I love MMA. I want the world to know of it and acknowledge it as a legitimate sport and I want it to be famous. I don’t want myself to be famous. That’s an oxymoron for me, don’t you think? An agoraphobe seeking attention? I want to be left alone and continue living my horrible life with what little I have, and that’s my family and MMA.”
David v Goliath
So where now? Messina, who says he’s worth just about nothing, informs TorrentFreak he has a little under three weeks to respond to the $3.5 billion-valued Zuffa or suffer a default judgment. He’s found a lawyer prepared to take on the case pre-trial and pending settlement but needs $5,000 to get things going, an amount he doesn’t have. To that end Messina has set up a GoFundMe campaign in the hope that those sympathetic to his situation might donate a few dollars. Those who prefer anonymity can make the same gesture via Bitcoin.
“I did not, will not, never did, never will, ever make money off of another’s work, and that’s that,” Messina says. “Also, [to the New York Post] I do not live in a god damn basement. Leave my basement out of this! It’s done nothing to you!”