UFC Heavyweight Mark Hunt is very rarely the ‘David’ when it comes to professional fighting.
Hunt’s immense physical stature and heavy hands generally make him the proverbial ‘Goliath’ in any fight he takes part in, but when the Super Samoan was tasked with fighting former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 earlier this month, he switched to the role of David… and in more ways than one.
Firstly, Brock was the taller, bigger, faster and more explosive fighter but he also tested positive for an out-of-competition drug test by UFC drug regulators USADA.
Per the UFC and USADA’s standard procedure on potential doping violations, the substances for which Lesnar tested positive were not disclosed, and will not be disclosed unless the fighter discloses it himself or the results management process has concluded.
For Hunt, it marked the third fight in his six-year UFC career where he had to fight against an opponent that would later fail a post-fight drug test, and while it must be challenging for the 42-year-old, it will seem like a walk in the park compared to taking on the UFC.
In the aftermath of Lesnar’s failed drug test, Hunt said on his website markhunt.tv: “I saw Brock made millions for this fight, more than anyone ever.
“I wanna know what they are gonna do to Brock now. When you don’t make weight they give twenty percent of your purse to the other fighter. If you get caught cheating you should lose all of it.
“I’ve told Dana that I want a release from the UFC if they don’t sort this out.
“They say they are trying to clean up the sport, but it doesn’t feel like it. The UFC is basically saying if you cheat you won’t be penalised.”
Hunt makes some very valid points and it’s obvious that he’s hurt by the defeat and the circumstances surrounding Lesnar’s victory. The Aucklander raises the issue of purse forfeiture, in which a fighter that fails to make weight will forfeit 20% of their purse to their opponent.
He feels the same theory should be applied to those who test positive on doping tests and he’s right. If you were a fighter, would you rather fight an opponent who misses weight or an opponent who has been ‘juicing’?
Both are unprofessional and both should be punished. However, the UFC separates the two, in a similar manner to how a company disciplines their employees. If you step out of line in the office you’re subject to repercussions by management; if you step out of line on the street, you’re subject to the measure of the law.
The lines can obviously be blurred depending on the situation but the premise is the same for the UFC. If you miss weight, you’ll be punished by the company; if you test positive, you’ll be punished by USADA and the respective Athletic Commission.
It’s a process that has served the UFC well over the years but Hunt is now challenging that process, and challenging it just four days after the UFC were acquired by WME-IMG in one of the biggest sales in sports history.
The new ownership group have been given an ultimatum by one of their employees and they must now decide whether to succumb to Hunt’s demands or to let the Heavyweight walk.
Of course, it’s not the first time the UFC has had a fighter try and force their hand.
When UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor was billed for UFC 200, he refused to participate in the UFC’s full allotment of media requirements and was subsequently pulled from the card. No ifs or buts.
The UFC also prevailed over Jose Aldo when the former Featherweight champion demanded an immediate rematch with McGregor after the Dubliner knocked him out in 13 seconds at UFC 194.
The Brazilian released a statement on Facebook claiming that ‘he would not accept any other fight other than a title shot’.
— Jose Aldo Junior (@josealdojunior) January 27, 2016
Aldo fought Frankie Edgar in a non-title fight at UFC 200 less than six months later.
Whether it’s McGregor, Aldo, Tito Ortiz or Ken Shamrock, or any other fighter, every fighter that has taken on the UFC has ultimately lost.
The only fighters that may prevail are Nate Quarry, Cung Le and former Welterweight contender Jon Fitch, who are currently engaged with the UFC in ongoing litigation surrounding anti-competitive business practices.
However, getting back to Hunt, new owners WME-IMG did not make their billions by giving into financial demands by employees.
Ultimately, fighters are commodities and Hunt isn’t the company’s most valuable commodity. He is 42 years of age, he’s not a perennial pay-per-view headliner, he’s not a big pay-per-view draw and he’s asking the company to give him $2.5 million dollars in compensation or he’s leaving.
The UFC will inevitably let Hunt walk if he sticks by his demands but for the fighter himself it’s not necessarily the worst option either. Hunt could become a martyr for doping in MMA much in the same manner that Ariel Helwani became a martyr in MMA for his reporting, and even if he doesn’t, what does he have to lose?
His age means he doesn’t have many years left and he can fight for Bellator or World Series Of Fighting to finish off his career if he decides to move on.
Unfortunately for Hunt, it’s the right claim but by the wrong person. One has to wonder what would the UFC do if Featherweight champion Conor McGregor were to make such a demand?
Would the UFC be willing to let a prime McGregor at the peak of his powers walk? Unlikely, especially if they stand to make a lot more money from McGregor than he does from them.
Hopefully the UFC and Hunt can resolve their issues but if they can’t, at least Hunt has raised an issue that is worth fighting for and an issue that shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena