Mark Hunt said he felt backed into a corner.
The popular heavyweight fighter said he didn't want to fight Alistair Overeem at UFC 209 on March 4, but felt like he didn't have much of a choice. Hunt is currently suing the UFC for racketeering, fraud and negligence, among other claims, for the situation regarding Brock Lesnar's failed drug tests.
Hunt turned down multiple bouts last year, but told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that the UFC threatened that he would be in breach of contract if he didn't take the Overeem matchup.
“They put me in a position, like well what am I supposed to do?” Hunt said. “They forced this fight on me, pretty much.”
Hunt, 42, had his lawyers file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking damages from the UFC, Lesnar and UFC president Dana White for their roles in Lesnar’s two failed drug tests for the banned substance clomiphene in relation to UFC 200. The UFC granted Lesnar an exemption for four months of drug testing prior to the fight and USADA, the UFC's anti-doping partner, did not expedite the result of the first test Lesnar ultimately failed.
Lesnar was able to fight Hunt at UFC 200 and beat him by unanimous decision. Lesnar also failed a fight-night test as well.
The UFC has stated that it waived the four months of testing for Lesnar because he had not been part of the USADA program when he retired five years prior and he has only officially signed to fight about one month ahead of UFC 200. USADA did get five clean tests back from Lesnar before the bout.
The UFC has declined to comment thus far on the lawsuit.
Hunt said he asked out of his UFC contract, but the promotion would not terminate it. While under UFC contract, Hunt cannot fight for other organizations.
“I couldn't go anywhere else,” Hunt said. “That’s the position right now it is. If I couldn’t work anywhere else and I'm still trying to get my fair deal in this thing, what am I supposed to do? If they're going to let me go, let me go. At least I can go work somewhere else. I've gotta look after my family and my commitments as well. And they can't just sit me at the back of the bus without having any work. You can't do that.”
The fight against Overeem raised eyebrows because Overeem has actually failed a drug test before with elevated levels of testosterone. Hunt has complained that multiple previous opponents, like Antonio Silva and Frank Mir, have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
“I don’t make these choices,” Hunt said. “I don't ask to fight anybody. All I ask is to fight the best fighters in the world. All I'm doing is when they ask, ‘Will you fight this person?’ [I say,] ‘Yes, because I’m employed with them.’ So when they ask, ‘Will you fight this guy?’ Of course, I'll fight anybody in the world.”
Hunt said he reached out to Overeem about adding a provision to the contracts that if the winner fails a drug test, the loser would get the lion’s share — if not all — of the winner's fight purse. Apparently, the UFC and Overeem passed on that provision. Hunt made it seem like that was the catalyst for the lawsuit, which he has been talking about since September.
“This is why we’re here now, because of this situation,” Hunt said. “You want to close the door on me? We’re here now. So what are you gonna do?”