Only the National Football League spent more on lobbyists than the Ultimate Fighting Championship this past year on Capitol Hill.
The industry-leading fight promotion shelled out $620,000, double the amount of Major League Baseball and nearly five times the National Basketball Association's payout, according to the Center for Responsible Politics.
The NFL dwarfed all major sporting organizations with $1.14 million.
The UFC's 2012 figures represent a 51 percent increase from the previous year, in which parent company Zuffa spent $410,000 in Washington, and a 158 percent increase from $240,000 in 2008, when CRP first tracked lobbying records.
This year, Zuffa has spent $110,000. Records for the most recent fiscal quarter are not yet available.
A pair of firms – Brownstein, Hyatt, Faber and Schreck LLP, as well as SB Consulting – represent the UFC. The promotion's co-chief operating officer, Lawrence Epstein, told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) that the firms are used to educate legislators on MMA and to push for tougher anti-piracy laws that could stem financial losses from illegal streaming.
In late 2011 and early 2012, the lobbyists also discussed Zuffa's "competition policy," filings show. Epstein said the designation refers to an anti-trust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which closed in January 2012.
As of late, legislative turnover in both houses of Congress and fierce opposition to recent anti-piracy legislation have made changing the law a tough fight.
"I think we've got a lot of work to do," Epstein said. "There is a general sort of bias that has anything to do with intellectual property because of the fallout from [the Stop Online Piracy Act] and [Protect IP Act]."
This past year, Zuffa took a gut punch when the controversial anti-piracy bills were shot down amid public outcry. Epstein said the company worked with legislators to modify the current law so that stealing copyrighted material would be a felony instead of a misdemeanor. But when the language was lumped in with the bigger law, they died together.
"We saw this train coming down the tracks, but in Washington, those in power make the decisions," he said.
Epstein said Zuffa's primary aim still is to deter piracy by upping the punishment for offenders. He said he plans to be in Washington this week to speak with lawmakers.
"The only way this is really going to slow down is if, frankly, there is criminal prosecution," he said. "These pirates are doing incredible damage to businesses like ours. This needs to be a felony, and you need to prosecute these people."
Since 2010, Zuffa has done so several times in court, filing lawsuits against website operators, individuals and business owners alleged to have profited from stolen UFC content. Zuffa co-owner and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta once told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that the company had uncovered 271 illegal streams of a UFC pay-per-view that allowed more than 140,000 viewers to watch the event for free.