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Mark Hunt’s anger at being replaced at UFC Sydney is more confusing than the reasons

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Gallery Photo: UFC 160 photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Nobody follows the Dana White beat these days quite like TMZ, which is always right where it needs to be when the soft serve hits the fan. This time TMZ tracked White down after Mark Hunt called him a “bald-headed prick,” a “peice of sh*t” (sic) and, as if those sentiments didn’t convey his feelings nearly enough, a “c***sucker” just for good measure.

Hunt was obviously a little peeved.

That’s because he had himself a fight planned against Marcin Tybura for Nov. 19 only to find out early this week that he’d been replaced by Fabricio Werdum. Why? Because the “Super Samoan” penned a first person account for the Australian Players Voice in which he essentially waved red flags high and bright for everyone to see, including those all the way out in Las Vegas.

“My body is f*cked but my mind is still here,” Hunt wrote, before proceeding to contradict himself. “I’ve still got my senses about me and I know what’s right and wrong, which is the main thing. Sometimes I don’t sleep well. You can hear me starting to stutter and slur my words. My memory is not that good anymore. I’ll forget something I did yesterday but I can remember the sh*t I did years and years ago.”

People say a lot of things about Dana, but hardly anybody questions his ability to read. In the age of CTE and the creeping shadow of conscience that comes with watching football and combat sports, Hunt’s admission was a queasy one. Nobody really wants to watch a heavyweight slugfest if one of the participants won’t remember it on Sunday (but very well might in 2023). A Hunt fight has always been fun, but they’re not that fun. Especially when Hunt himself constantly reminds everyone that he’s a family man, which painfully redistributes the stakes.

The piece he authored meanders into a good many other corridors of thought, mostly concerned with having faced too many cheaters in his career, and how that robbed him of exclusive heights. It was a fairly honest-seeming assessment of his situation from a rare vantage point, but also one coming from a disgruntled fighter who has an active lawsuit against the UFC stemming from his fight with (the cheater) Brock Lesnar.

In other words, things are teeming with pettiness and vengeance on both sides. Hunt couldn’t have expected something like that to go unnoticed, could he? And the UFC has to be a little fed up with Hunt’s crusade to direct attention to the brain cells being beaten out of him by roided-up freaks while promoting his fights. The UFC is in the business of putting together fights, not tinseling the stage for martyrdom. Perhaps my colleague Dave Doyle said it best when looking at the current developments in Hunt vs. UFC: It seems like the UFC might have done the right thing by pulling Hunt out, but possibly for the wrong reasons.

It’s been hard to fault Hunt for his lawsuit against the UFC, especially with Lesnar having been booked at UFC 200 under seemingly privileged circumstances (namely, he that he forewent the four-month USADA testing window before the fight, and ended up popping for PEDs). Hunt’s concerns about cheaters in the sport has opened up a lot of discussion about just how rampant cheating really is, and might one day be looked at as the galvanizing action for change.

That part is applaudable. Especially in the big picture of creating an even playing field.

The 43-year-old Hunt’s voice for fighter safety and tamping out cheaters is juxtaposed by his vicious brand of parting people from their wits. He is the buster of taboos, and the vindicator for the wronged — and he’s always a punch away from contention. Yet he’s jangled nerve, too, a fight game counter-intuition playing out in real time. A Hunt fight has become a meta-ordeal in that entertainment becomes introspection for bad choices. It’s not even Hunt against a competitor, but Hunt against his better judgment, and Hunt against the Man — in this case, the Man that booked him in his beloved Sydney, where the Man had the most to lose in removing him from the headlining spot.

Hunt says he lost $100,000 in training camp expenses; the UFC just coughed up its event. It’s hard to vilify the UFC for taking what Hunt wrote at face value and acting accordingly. Hunt may feel it’s a violation of his rights (or another example that he has none), but the bully that he’s up against is ultimately punching itself in the nose.

In a strange way, Hunt’s confused anger for being plucked from a fight card tailored to him (over something alarming that he himself wrote) might be an indicator that it was the right move by the UFC. If he doesn’t understand the “why” in this case, perhaps further tests really are needed. Imagine if the UFC goes through with the fight after Hunt wrote that, and something goes terribly wrong. Who looks negligent in the scenario? Who takes the blame? Sometimes, as White stated to TMZ, you really do need to protect fighters from themselves.

The contention from Hunt’s camp is that he was cleared to fight against Tybura by doctors, who found “nothing major” during the testing, which isn’t the most convincing word choice. The UFC stated it didn’t feel comfortable putting him in there given his admission and circumstances, and rebooted the main event with Werdum.

Perhaps it was a subtle slap in the face for the pending lawsuit. Maybe it was the UFC’s way of saying, even if you didn’t mean it, “stop being such a loose cannon.” Or, more believably, maybe it was for genuine concern for Hunt’s well being — a concern that Hunt has accused the UFC of being devoid of. Either way, the move was justified. Nobody wants to wince at a fighter with such toll, especially when that fighter openly winces at himself.