Mark Hunt has taken his grievances against the UFC to court.
The veteran heavyweight filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday naming Brock Lesnar, UFC president Dana White, and the UFC’s parent company Zuffa LLC as defendants, and seeking damages “in the millions” for the controversy surrounding Lesnar’s two failed drug tests ahead of his return fight against Hunt at UFC 200.
The suit alleges racketeering, fraud, negligence, and breach of contract among eight charges levied by Hunt against the UFC, Lesnar, and White. Hunt’s lead attorney, Christina Denning, confirmed the validity of the suit to MMA Fighting on Tuesday night following an initial report by ESPN.
"I want the UFC to understand it's not OK to keep doing what they're doing," Hunt said to ESPN. "They're allowing guys to do this. They had a chance to take all the money from this guy, because he's a cheater, and they didn't.
"What message is that sending to the boys and girls who want to be a fighter someday? The message is, 'You just have to cheat like this and it's OK.' In society, if you commit a crime, you pay. Why is it different in MMA? It's hurt the business, so it's even worse. They need to be held accountable for this."
The UFC did not immediately return requests to comment made by MMA Fighting.
Hunt, 42, faced Lesnar in a pay-per-view bout on July 9 at UFC 200. The fight was initially a unanimous decision loss for Hunt, but was later overturned into a no contest.
Following the bout, which was Lesnar’s first in mixed martial arts in nearly five years, it was revealed that Lesnar failed two separate drug tests for banned substances. Lesnar first tested positive for the anti-estrogenic agent Hydroxy-clomiphene in an out-of-competition drug test administered by USADA on June 28. Lesnar then tested positive for the same substance in a drug test administered on fight night.
Last month, the Nevada Athletic Commission elected to issue Lesnar a one-year suspension for the failed tests as well as a $250,000 fine that amounted to 10 percent of his disclosed purse for UFC 200. Following that ruling, USADA followed suit by issuing Lesnar a concurrent one-year suspension that allowed the WWE superstar to return to active competition on July 15.
The handling of the case from all sides has drawn immense criticism from Hunt, and on Tuesday the veteran heavyweight made his suit official.
Within the filing, Hunt railed against the UFC and USADA for having “affirmatively circumvented and obstructed fair competition for their own benefit, including being complicit in doping proliferation under the guise of advancing ‘the best anti-doping program in all of professional sports.’” Hunt stated that the UFC has accomplished such measures “by means including but not limited to various and rampant purported use exemptions, drug testing exemptions and by failure to enforce its own policies.”
Hunt went on to claim that the UFC granted Lesnar an exemption to the usual four-month USADA testing protocol required of debuting UFC fighters “with knowledge or willful indifference to the fact that Lesnar was using banned substances,” leading the UFC, Lesnar, and White to be “unjustly enriched by their conduct to the detriment of Hunt, including through pay-per-view revenues far exceeding Lesnar’s $2,500,000.00 fight purse, in an amount to be proven at trial.”
Hunt argued that the UFC and Lesnar were aware of Lesnar’s potential return as early as March and had ample time to enroll Lesnar in the four-month testing window before UFC 200. Hunt also added that the defendants actions were done “in furtherance of their own profit at the expense of fighter safety and fair competition,” and that the UFC’s actions served as a consistent pattern of “wrongfully jeopardizing fighter health and safety for profit” — a pattern which included “granting doping exemptions and drug testing exemptions to known doping competitors, and causing those drug-enhanced fighters to compete with clean fighters.”
Hunt noted the fact that his three most recent UFC opponents — Antonio Silva, Frank Mir, and Lesnar — have all popped positive for performance enhancing drugs. Hunt similarly pointed back to the UFC’s controversial handling of Vitor Belfort’s testosterone replacement therapy ahead of Belfort’s UFC 152 title fight against Jon Jones.
Hunt is expected to fight Alistair Overeem in a heavyweight bout on March 4 at UFC 209.
Hunt previously declined three fight offers following UFC 200, stating that he would not accept another fight until the UFC included provisions in his contract that took extra measures against any opponent found to be doping. However, Hunt ultimately relented on those terms, explaining that he had to accept his bout against Overeem — another opponent with a past doping history — due to financial reasons.
"I didn't want to be in this position," Hunt said to ESPN. "It puts me in a weird spot because I'm still under contract. Fans say, 'Mark, you knew he was juicing.' I didn't know. You look at him and think, 'Yeah, he's on the gear,' but don't judge a book by its cover and all that.
"This was the last straw. I lost that fight, it ruined it for my fans. It wasn't good. I asked to get out of my contract but I can't. I need to work like everyone else."