Mark Hunt has rained down fire and brimstone at Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ever since Brock Lesnar was flagged by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) following their fight at UFC 200 this past July, and he has yet to let up on his harsh criticism of the fight promotion.
The No.7-ranked UFC heavyweight has let it rip in the last few months, repeatedly bashing the promotion several times publicly and insisting they do more to rid their roster of cheating fighters after learning Lesnar tested positive for hydroxy-clomiphene, an anti-estrogen agent, in both in and out-of-competition drug tests issued by USADA for UFC 200. To use a driving analogy, he's far beyond honking the horn and asking someone to move. It's more in line with speeding up next to that person with the window down and fully extending his middle finger while shouting obscenities in full-on road rage.
"The Super Samoan" is demanding a change and he's demanding it now. But he's not going to just continue on with verbal tongue lashings at his employers. He's willing to take legal action if he has to, should the changes he is seeking in terms of new provisions being added to his contract and the way the promotion handles performance enhancing drug users, not be made.
Hunt, 42, has retained the legal services of Christina Denning from Higgs, Fletcher and Mack, a law firm based in San Diego, Calif. and a lawsuit could be forthcoming.
The New Zealand native is incensed that he shared the Octagon with Lesnar, who popped positive after their UFC 200 bout, on top of being granted a four-month drug-testing exemption prior to signing on with the promotion. But it's not just Lesnar that's got Hunt all twisted with anger. It's the fact that he's fought two other violators in Frank Mir and also Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. Hunt defeated Mir by knockout at UFC Fight Night 85 this past March at UFC Fight Night 85 in Brisbane, Australia, but Mir tested positive for oral turinabol metabolites, an anabolic steroid, after the bout. "Bigfoot" failed a drug test due to elevated levels of testosterone when he and Hunt fought to a draw back in 2013 at UFC Fight Night 33, also in Brisbane.
"It's the third time I've had to fight a steroid user," Hunt told MMAmania.com on a conference call with Denning and his longtime attorney Michael Connette. "I don't think the penalties are harsh enough. I don't think it is a fair environment. I've probably fought more juicers than anybody. The difference is now is that I realized I can actually lose an eye or something and not be able to compete again. I know fighting is kind of hard and all, but when these losers are taking steroids it makes it even worse."
Hunt has been adamant for harsher punishments because inside the Octagon you aren't trying to win a game, you are trying to hurt someone, which in his eyes, makes it all the more dangerous.
"I think it should be strict on all of them--the charges for an athlete," the 17-year veteran said. "Any other sport is pretty harsh on steroids, but the difference in those sports is they aren't trying to hurt someone like you are in mixed martial arts. They are affecting time or other people, but with MMA you are hurting others."
Denning, who specializes in business litigation, construction law and plaintiff's litigation, explained that some things need to play out in order for a potential lawsuit to be filed, namely Lesnar's hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC).
"One of the things about a lawsuit or a potential lawsuit is that we've got to let Brock Lesnar go through and exhaust his ability to challenge the findings of USADA," she explained. "And Brock Lesnar's hearing was originally scheduled for sometime in October, but it got put off until November 10. I've been trying to figure out if I need to make plans to go out there because we've requested permission to participate in that hearing before the Nevada Athletic Commission. Brock Lesnar retained an attorney (Howard Jacobs) who handles these things and I found out today in calling that attorney, who is representing Brock Lesnar, that he has already requested another continuance, which would push this out into mid December. It has not been granted yet. We are just trying to stay on top of that. We've requested an extension beyond the two minutes we are allowed to speak because it is a public forum and I would like to go and represent Mark's interest in front of the NAC. And that leads me to the kind of conundrum that we are in with respect to this whole process."
Should Lesnar be found guilty at that hearing--whenever it takes place--he will be issued a suspension and could also be given a fine. However, the latter is not a certainty, and if Lesnar is forced to pay a fine, that money goes to the State of Nevada. This, of course, would not sit well with Hunt or Denning, who both feel strongly that Hunt should receive that money since he is the one who risked his health by being in the Octagon against someone that was chemically enhanced.
"We've got the UFC's own anti-doping policy, which also gives the UFC the ability to take away Lesnar's purse, and it's broad enough to include any money that he makes from the result of these fights," Denning explained. "So, theoretically, the UFC upon the finding of a violation could take all of the money back from Brock. Not only the 2.5 million dollar purse, but anything he earned from pay-per-view, if he had a win bonus--all of that--and then put it into it's anti-doping program. Or better yet--and what we'd like to see happen--is the person that had to get in the ring with him gets allocated that money.
"If such a policy was implemented it would definitely deter some UFC fighters--maybe not all--from actually doping in the first place because instead of a slap in the wrist or a suspension because they were planning a sabbatical anyway, it would cause them to forfeit the money that they've earned. So, we have an interesting dynamic between the UFC, it's anti-doping regulation and how that reconciles with the Nevada State Athletic Commission jurisdiction over what happens with the person's money. My understanding is that any fines that are imposed for violations haven't been that great anyways. But conceptually, those two entities have the ability to take the money and do with it what the statute allows them to do with it on the one hand, and then the policy allows it to do on the other hand."
Hunt added: "He's [Lesnar] probably sitting there laughing about all the money he's making. He's still a fake, a fraud and a cheat. That's all he will be known for. The problem is he ruins history. He ruins history for all the people's history, for mine and everyone out there that competes clean. They need to have some penalties to take away their financial gain. That will stop them for sure."
There are several layers to this potential lawsuit, according to Denning. The next issue she wants to bring to the able is one she says is "very troubling.' And that would be UFC granting Lesnar a four-month exemption from USADA drug testing prior to signing him for the July UFC 200 card. Under normal circumstances any fighter coming out of retirement must give four-month notice so that they can meet the stringent requirements for in and out-of-competition drug testing. At the time, this move by the promotion certainly raised more than a few eyebrows, which it did even more so once Lesnar was flagged by USADA following UFC 200.
Denning says more than a few questions need to be raised as to why Lesnar was granted that exemption and didn't enter into the drug testing protocol four months before UFC 200. Moreover, if UFC 200 was a one-and-done situation for Lesnar, who is already back performing in the WWE, Denning wants to know how a suspension can affect Lesnar, particularly if he had no plans to return to fighting beyond UFC 200 in the first place.
"We've got the UFC granting an exemption from the four-month drug testing requirements in order for Lesnar to participate in UFC 200," she began. "UFC 200 happened in July, I believe, and he didn't sign on with UFC until June, a month before. However, Brock and the UFC had been in discussions for several months beforehand about Brock Lesnar's possible participation in the UFC and everybody understood that he was planning on coming into the UFC. That causes you to wonder, well, why didn't he sign on early and get into the program.
"Well, I can't say with certainty and I don't want to throw out allegations that are unsupported, but one could suspect that the UFC and Brock Lesnar both knew that they were going to have a problem with these random drug tests and so they waited and sat on this announcement so he could get clean. And then he gets into the program and has a couple of results where he passes and then he starts taking whatever substance it is--and I'm not an expert on it--but he starts taking this substance knowing that this is a one-time stop in the UFC and he is now going back to the WWE, where he is part-time and not subject to any discipline there and it's like this guy is invincible.
"What's concerning is the UFC"s decision to grant him this exemption when the anti-doping policy … there is specific and this is where the law comes in and you argue over vague terms, but it says there has got to be extraordinary circumstances for granting that exemption," Denning continued. "I don't know, I"m not an insider like you, but there are reports out there that I haven't substantiated, that this is the only time the UFC has granted such an exemption. Then you have to factor in the fact that UFC 200 came around the time of the 4.2 billion dollar sale of the UFC was getting ready to close and they've already lost some money because of the doping violations.
"So, here comes Mark, who is already willing to fight anyone and let's put him in against Brock, who is all juiced up. So, what a potential lawsuit would address is the actual occurrence here, but also a pattern of the UFC saying 'okay, well we've got an anti-doping policy.' And sure they turn it over to USADA, a third-party agency to regulate it, but they have no control over when these people get tested. There is a pattern of these fighters coming up positive and the UFC not doing what it should be doing about it after the fact to actually deter this from happening in the future."
"You can say the UFC is trying to do everything they can to try and catch drug users, but then why would they give him a four-month exemption?" asked Hunt. "I think they actually knew. They actually knew the pro wrestler was on the juice. All those losers are juicing. It's all fake. It's not a natural competition. They can do whatever they want to look good for the audience because it's all scripted. How do I know this? I did pro wrestling in Japan myself. I've taken a lot of fights on short notice, but this one they gave him a four-month exemption. They had the sale on. I've had enough of it and I shouldn't have to suffer, neither should my family, because these guys are taking the juice. And lose out on money that I should be making because this dickhead is coming around here with his steroids. And why is it that they are not making penalties even more harsher for these guys because it's a violent sport about hurting people."
Denning told MMAmania.com she will be exploring the RICO Act (Racketeering influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) in regards to UFC possibly having knowledge of Lesnar being dirty and allowing him to step into the cage against Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016.
"One of these things that we are exploring--and same with Brock Lesnar there is cause of action against him as well--but one of the things that we are exploring is actually racketeering, RICO violations, because there is a pattern for the benefit of the UFC to gain monetary benefit off of engaging in this behavior. And it's given that there is a pattern and Mark can speak to this, but not only Mark, whose fought three people that have tested positive and they asked him to fight some of them again, there are other fighters in the UFC, who do not take any banned substances, who have also been put in the same situation. And my understanding is for those persons, sometimes their next fight's compensation is dependent on the outcome of what that result is."
If a fighter misses weight, than his opponent receives 20 percent of he overweight fighter's purse in most cases. Hunt thinks the same action should be applied to a failed drug test, except it should be the entire purse.
"If you miss weight you lose 20 percent," Hunt chimed in. "With drugs nothing really happens. You get a two-year ban or some rubbish. That doesn't mean nothing for a broken eye or something. I got my hand broken in a few places and I was out for a whole year and he [Antonio Silva] actually came back and fought before I did. Do you know how annoying that is? It's really annoying."
With Lesnar back in WWE, "why would he care if he is issued a fine or suspended?" Denning asks.
"He's already making money elsewhere and he's going to keep all of his money," she said. "What are they going to fine him 25 grand or I don't know what the going rate is, but from what I read it's not their purse. The other thing is Mark is in a tough position right not because he needs to make money for his family."
"Why should I lose out?" Hunt said, his voice now raised. "Why should I lose out on being the world champion or chasing my dream when this dickhead comes in cheats and doesn't follow the rules. Why have rules for everyone, and have different rules for some idiot to come help your sale or whatever it is."
Denning, like most, doesn't know a lot about "the inner workings of UFC and Nevada State Athletic Commission" in regards to contracts and negotiations, but according to her, "there is a lot of monkey business going on and Mark is stepping up to the plate and wanting to get to the bottom of it. Hunt still has five fights left on his current contract and has been turning them down because he is "demanding change."
And what Hunt wants from UFC is a new provision in his contract, which awards him money if he is matched up with someone, who tests positive for banned substances. Otherwise he's going to continue to turn down fights and pursue this lawsuit.
"He's being put into a position where he's having to turn down fights because the UFC is refusing to say, 'hey, we are going to do something about this policy,'" Denning said. "All he wants is a provision in there saying, 'okay, if I have to fight a guy, who turns out that he was juicing than I want his money. That should go into my bout agreement and that should go into his bout agreement with the UFC.' Why the UFC wouldn't do that, I don't know."
Hunt said he's already turned down a fight with Josh Barnett, calling him "another known cheater," and Denning revealed the most recent opponent he would not agree to fight.
"Mark was offered a fight against Junior dos Santos and turned it down because the UFC would not agree to the provisions that we proposed," she explained. "I understand that I also have the Nevada Athletic Commission to reckon with. It's interesting because there is the UFC retaining the ability to impose certain penalties and what if they imposed them to 100 percent? That would be in direct contrast to if the Nevada Athletic Commission would decide to impose its penalties in full force. There is already an inherit conflict between the UFC anti-doping policy and the Nevada revised statutes."
According to Denning, the provision they are seeking for Hunt's contract is not unheard of.
"What I'm proposing where this other competitor gets the pot--that whole concept--theres precedence of that," Denning explained. "There have been people, who have won marathons in the past and it's found that they were doping and the purse or the winnings were taken from that person and given to the other competitor, who came in second. Theres precedence for the whole idea that the other competitors could recover that purse."
The UFC Anti-doping policy models itself after the World Anti-doping policy, and that, Denning says, is a vital part of her argument that Hunt should be rewarded Lesnar's fight purse from UFC 200.
"Now these UFC attorneys might think this is a stretch, but I don't," said Denning. "When the UFC anti-doping policy was written, you can read the first--I'm sure you have it--it talks about in the very first paragraph that it's the central part of the expanded efforts to protect the health and safety of the athletes and to protect their right to compete on a level playing field. And it says their goal is for that policy to become the best anti-doping program in all of professional sport. Now, the next line is the most important thing that I want to point out. It says, 'this anti-doping policy is modeled on the world anti-doping code.' Now, the world anti-doping code has a provision in it where the cheater has to forfeit the money to the other athletes. So, what I'm proposing that the UFC do, not only is there precedent for it in other sports, but it's also in line with what the UFC policy has modeled its policy and based it on."
Denning said she has had open correspondence with UFC chief legal officer, Kirk Hendrick, and also personal counsel, Donald J. Campbell and J. Colby Williams of Campbell and Williams, and has flown out to Las Vegas to meet with him and discuss matters. She says "they've been receptive" and "haven't closed any doors" as of now.
"They haven't said, 'we aren't going to pay you any money. We are not going to work with Mark anymore.' They've been very careful to not close any doors on Mark and his cause and they've been very clear in saying it's not they wouldn't ever consider this type of contract language. But, they rejected the terms of our proposal for him to fight in the upcoming I think it's UFC 206. I could be wrong."
Hunt chimed in again and said, "I wanted to file the lawsuit ages ago."
Denning maintained they would wait until Lesnar "exhausted the hearing process" before pursuing any possible action. Hunt's impatience and contempt was transparent.
"What, so he can cheat like the rest of them," said Hunt. "'Oh it's viagra or some sort of sex pill.' They are all making up stories. The whole lot of them."
"And that is why I am going to personally participate in the hearings for Brock Lesnar to make sure that doesn't happen, that he doesn't find some sort of escape route," Denning reassured. "So I'm going to personally be participating in that, but I don't want to be in a position where I have to--I'm in San Diego--associate in Nevada counsel, which I have a few law firms chomping at the bit to get in on this. So I have to associate in counsel from Nevada to file in federal court, which is where it would be a lawsuit. But, I don't want to go through all of that and we end up with egg on our face, if for some reason the Nevada Athletic Commission were to find that this was all a big mistake. Mark, I don't think that is going to happen. I think that by your representatives actually hands-on participating in the process it's going to increase the chances of upholding of the finding that he was doping."
Hunt, who says the lone thing he takes away from his first fight vs. Silva--which is largely considered one of the greatest UFC Heavyweight fights of all time--is the fact that Silva failed a drug test. He still boasts that he will "fight anyone," but he wants a level playing field and he wants the cheaters to "pay for what they've done."
"I've had enough," he continued. "It's time to make things even. I'm not salty because I lost the fight [to Lesnar]. I'm never salty about a loss, but when someone is cheating, that's where I get a bit upset. I'd like to see things change. I'd like for them to put rules in so if you are caught cheating all your money goes to the other guy. There shouldn't be any sort of leniency for these drug cheats because they knowingly take these steroids to hurt people. There should be a clause that says, 'If you are caught using steroids you will be banned for life and you will also have all your money [fight purse] taken.' They should not be given any sort of excuses or try to get away. Listen, you are talking about people's lives here. You are talking about people fighting and actually going and hurting someone.
"If I was juicing and went and killed someone knowing that I was juicing, what would happen to me? I would get a two-year ban. That's fine. I can still fight again. But what about that guy's family and his kids? What do they get? They get nothing. The main provider for their family is dead because the other guy was cheating and using steroids. You look at it that way. I said it before, does someone have to die before things change in this company? I'm just trying to make things change for the better. I understand it's a violent sport and you can die anyway, but being turbocharged and supercharged on your body doesn't help the cause. That's all I want done. I want them to change these laws changed. I want them to take all their money and ban them for life. Any guy that is taking steroids should not be able to compete in any sport."
In terms of a number for compensatory damages she would be seeking for Hunt, Denning said it would be premature to quantify, but she did provide some of what could be considered should a lawsuit be filed against the UFC.
"Well, if we are able to allege a pattern and practice of this kind of behavior, which is essentially criminal in order to establish RICO," she said. "I want to say ... I do know that there is punitive damages, attorney fees, I want to say treble damages--which is triple damages--the actual damages and so depending on what causative action we bring, we may be entitled to damages that are punitive. And there is no specific amount. And honestly it would be premature to talk about a specific amount because I have not, one, exhausted my discussions about a resolution with the UFC. And two, because we just have to let this process ride out with the Nevada Athletic Commission and hopefully he [Lesnar] is not granted a further continuance and the hearing goes forward on November 10th and I'm out there saying my peace, which would be exactly in line with everything I've said on the phone today."
Connette, who had remained quiet for the majority of the phone call, added, "I think Mark and Christina are stated very accurately that the UFC has had an excellent opportunity to right this matter and they are hesitant." The Santa Montica based lawyer, who once represented Pride and has known Hunt for almost 20 years revealed that Hunt has sued the UFC once before.
"I've known Mark since the Pride days," said Connette. "Actually since he switched over from kickboxing at K-1 over into the MMA of Pride. I had a law firm in Japan at the time and I represented Pride at the time as well. Pride ended up stealing Mark from K-1. It was a big battle at the time between Pride and K-1, but he ended up switching over to MMA and you gotta start with Pride and MMA. I've know him ever since. We actually sold Pride to the UFC, the Fertitta brothers. Mark fought for Dream, another promotion out of Japan, which folded eventually.
"Mark and I ended up suing the UFC in Japan based on his Pride contract. Dana White states it incorrectly when he says 'we paid him to go away.' No that's not true. Mark sued them for breach of contract and they paid handsomely to Mark for that breach of contract. They didn't pay him to go away. They paid him for breach of contract. We sued them and we settled. I'm not going to talk about that settlement, but I don't think we can anyways. That was a rough start with the UFC. Actually, one of the lawyers that represented the UFC, he was a big Mark Hunt fan and he made sure that Mark got a contract with the UFC after that lawsuit was over and Mark starting appearing with the UFC. They were really bad with him just to start. Eventually the relationship improved because Mark was showing them what he could do and the draw he could bring."
The next few weeks will be very interesting as Lesnar's hearing with the NSAC is set for November 10th or possibly later if he should be granted a continuance. Hunt and his legal team are adamant that they will not back down from their stance on having new provisions written into his contract. And they will take action and file that lawsuit--after Lesnar's dealings with the NAC are finalized--should those provisions not be met along the lines of what they are seeking.
Hunt, who is now 12-11-1 in MMA competition, and 7-5-1 in UFC, said this before exiting the call.
"To be honest, they are taking away my love for fighting. What I love to do is fighting. They are taking it away by giving me all these freaking cheaters. It's not their fault, but it might've been their fault because they might've known. I want my release from my contract if things don't change. I don't even want to fight anymore. These cheaters have ruined everything."