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Mark Hunt retains lawyer, exploring legal options against UFC for Brock Lesnar situation

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Mark Hunt wasn't bluffing when he said he wanted to fight for change.

The popular heavyweight fighter has retained a lawyer and is exploring the possibility of taking legal action against the UFC with regards to Brock Lesnar and UFC 200, MMA Fighting confirmed Friday with San Diego attorney Christina Denning. MMA Mania was the first to report the story Thursday.

Denning told MMA Fighting that Hunt has two goals in this potential battle. He wants a provision in his contract — and maybe the contracts of others — that would say that if a fighter tests positive for banned substances, whatever money that fighter made from the bout would be forfeited to his or her opponent. Hunt is also seeking some kind of compensation from the UFC after what he felt was wrongful treatment over the summer.

Hunt fought Lesnar at UFC 200 back in July. Lesnar won via unanimous decision, but later news broke that he tested positive for the banned substance clomiphene in a USADA out-of-competition test, taken about a week and a half before the fight. The test result did not come back before the contest. Lesnar also tested positive for clomiphene in an in-competition test on fight night July 9. He's currently facing sanctions from USADA and the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC), which also has jurisdiction because the fight took place in Las Vegas.

Lesnar made a disclosed purse of $2.5 million at UFC 200, which is subject to NAC fine. The UFC also has the ability to fine Lesnar, but has not taken that kind of action yet in doping cases under USADA.

Denning does not understand why USADA did not expedite Lesnar's out-of-competition results, especially since the UFC waived a provision in its anti-doping policy for Lesnar. That provision says a fighter coming out of retirement must be in the USADA drug-testing pool for four months before competing again.

Denning, who is a partner at Higgs Fletcher & Mack, said she has spoken to attorneys at USADA and flown to Las Vegas to meet with UFC lawyers, including chief legal officer Kirk Hendrick. Denning said the meeting with the UFC did not end poorly.

"They did not close any doors on us," she said. "We have an ongoing dialogue."

Hunt recently turned down a fight with Junior dos Santos, Denning said, because the UFC would not meet his demands on alterations to the standard bout agreement. Hunt wanted written in to both fighters' contracts that if one is caught doping, all money earned from that fight would go to the opponent.

The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that Hunt has fought foes who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs three times since the end of 2013. Hunt knocked out Frank Mir back in March and Mir tested positive for a steroid in an in-competition screening. He's currently going through the adjudication process with USADA. Antonio Silva also had heightened levels of testosterone in an in-competition test in relation to a fight with Hunt in 2013 and was suspended for one year. Hunt has been very vocal about his feelings on the matter.

"He stepped up to the plate in UFC 200 against Brock Lesnar and Brock ends up walking away with all this money and Mark is sitting there with another loss as a result of having to fight somebody that has been on performance-enhancing drugs," Denning said.

Another potential legal action could be taken, Denning said, if it is somehow determined that the UFC had knowledge of Lesnar's PED use and did not take proper steps to make sure he was not on banned substances for the fight against Hunt.

"That's kind of what we're exploring right now," Denning said.

The UFC has denied that charge. The reason the promotion has given for granting Lesnar a waiver for the four-month period is that Lesnar retired initially five years ago, long before the UFC had a partnership with USADA in place. In a statement given to MMA Fighting in August, USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden said the agency would look into its expediting processes.

"We never want to have a fighter enter the Octagon that may have used a prohibited substance," Madden said at the time. "But the reality is that in order for the UFC Anti-Doping program to be as effective as possible, it will always be absolutely mandatory that you test in the weeks, days and even hours leading up to a bout. Because of this, the possibility exists that some samples collected will not have the time to be analyzed before the athletes step in to the Octagon. We cannot allow for blackout periods where athletes know they won't be tested because the window is too tight for samples to be returned. That being said, we are always looking for ways to improve the anti-doping program, and that includes evaluating the process for requesting expedited results from the laboratory going forward - which we will do."

Hunt will not file any kind of lawsuit until Lesnar's case is fully adjudicated with the NAC, Denning said. That could push any legal action toward the end of the year. Lesnar might not go before the commission until December.

In addition to alterations made to contracts about where fine money goes after a fighter tests positive, Hunt would like the UFC to compensate him for what he perceives to be unfair treatment with regards to the UFC 200 situation. Lesnar is likely to make off with millions, even if he is fined by the NAC, because the commission cannot touch his pay-per-view share or any other bonuses. There was very little incentive for Lesnar to not use PEDs in this case, Denning said.

"He feels taken advantage of by the UFC," Denning said. "He's certainly looking at the UFC to make it right."

The only thing Hunt is likely to get, unless a lawsuit is pursued, is the result of the fight overturned to a no contest. That, Hunt believes, is nowhere near enough for going into the Octagon with someone who might have been on performance-enhancing drugs, especially when most people will just recall him losing that night, not the circumstances around it.

"That's a huge part of the issue," Denning said. "He does have a brand. He's known to be willing to fight anyone. If he keeps having to fight cheaters, as he said, then he can't get ahead. That win, it gets taken away from the cheater, but it doesn't get given to Mark. Every time he fights somebody and they end up on steroids, he's not able to advance his career. It does affect his brand."