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Opinion: Is Mark Hunt Going To Get Paid or Not?

Time:2017-01-14 22:43Shoes websites Click:

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Opinion: Is Mark Hunt Going To Get Paid or Not?

By Jordan Breen Jan 13, 2017


Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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Mark Hunt will never stop swinging for the fences.

Perhaps this week's news of the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix champion suing the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC President Dana White and former opponent Brock Lesnar shouldn't come as a surprise, since Hunt has been laying the groundwork for a lawsuit since the summer, almost immediately following the news of his victorious UFC 200 opponent allegedly testing positive for anti-estrogenic agent clomiphene and its metabolite 4-hydroxyclomiphene in a test administered June 28, 2016, by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. After all, Hunt retained the services of San Diego attorney Christina Denning, a partner at Higgs, Fletcher and Mack, all the way back in October.

If it says anything at all, even the slightest disbelief that Hunt would sue the UFC speaks to how historically one-sided labor relations in mixed martial arts have been. In the boxing world, fighters sue their promoters all the damn time and have been doing so for decades. Across the sports world, athletes routinely sue their teams, organizations and even occasionally their own players' union, as indicated most recently by former National Football League defensive end Lane Johnson suing both the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The fact there is any “Wow!” factor to Hunt pushing forward with his lawsuit is a reminder of who has always, and still, holds the real power in the MMA labor market, even amidst rampant talking of fighters associations and unionization.

Now, I'm no legal eagle, so if you want a deep and professional breakdown of the particulars of Hunt's suit, check out Erik Magraken's analysis on his Combat Sports Law blog, and a hat tip to ESPN's Brett Okamoto who broke the story and got the filing out there. What I can give you, however, is a real MMA world distillation of where this is headed.

As I wrote about in late July, Hunt is a supreme opportunist. Beyond his knack for always knowing when to change promoters, Hunt's gambit to challenge the UFC and refuse to take a $450,000 buyout, instead forcing them to honor his non-enforceable contract acquired in the 2007 Pride Fighting Championships buyout -- a contract that he easily could've walked away from if he wanted -- best exemplifies this.

“I'm going all the way,” Hunt told FoxSports.com in December. “You think this is about money? I've turned down two fights already. This is about what's right ... These cheaters need to be punished.”

Now, you can believe one of two things: Hunt saw Lesnar's reported $2.5 million, figured out how much pay-per-view revenue the former World Wrestling Entertainment champ would've taken in on an estimated buyrate over 1 million and saw his opportunity, approaching 43 years old, to nab a lucrative payday without having to fight; or, you believe that Hunt, who has repeatedly said in the past he didn't care about fighting drug cheats, has suddenly turned into a crusader for a clean sport -- and of course, the money doesn't hurt. Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, Hunt's suit is headed the same way.

Over the summer and into the fall, Hunt reportedly pushed the UFC to acquiesce to a provision in his contract that would allow for any of his opponents who tested failed a USADA drug test to have their purse seized and given to him. Naturally, the promotion balked at this and from that point, it was essentially a staring contest to see who would blink first; ultimately, Hunt had to launch his suit to save face at all.

In typically wacky MMA fashion, this is unlikely to impact Hunt's slated rematch on March 4 with Alistair Overeem at UFC 209. Hunt has told the media that he can't let his “family starve,” meaning he needs the fight, plus, the UFC needs every ounce of help it can get on any given event, let alone a PPV bill, plus, they can't look unduly prejudicial, dropping Hunt from a card they need him on at the risk of looking vindictive, which would be the UFC cutting its nose off to spite its face. But, it's hard to imagine that this suit is going to run it wire-to-wire and see a verdict.

Hunt's play to include racketeering charges and make it a federal RICO beef is commendable and clever, but most legal folks I've talked to have been skeptical or non-committal on the idea of Hunt getting his lawsuit heard outside of a Nevada state court, where naturally, the UFC is perceived to have several political home field advantages. From there, the UFC, White, Lesnar and anyone who could be potentially implicated in the future cross their fingers and hope for a dismissal. If it gets beyond that, that's when Hunt can really get into the money round.

If Hunt's suit goes to trial, naturally, the UFC will block the discovery process as long as possible with motions. On top of that, Hunt has undermined himself legally, both by his repeated past statements that he didn't care if he was fighting PED users, as well as the fact that the news of Lesnar not being subject to USADA's four-month testing pool prior to his UFC 200 return broke prior to the event. Hunt knew that Lesnar could've reasonably been on PEDs and still opted to fight him and that hurts. However, Hunt still has powerful ammunition that can make the UFC, White and Lesnar all run for a settlement.

Although the discovery process is theoretically private and sealed, any future motions, amendments or so forth could allow dribs and drabs of previously discovered materials to be thrust into public record. Considering that Hunt is alleging a long-spanning UFC plan to allow various fighters to perform on PEDs with impunity -- a claim that can likely be substantiated -- this is about the last point that the company would want to get to. Veteran MMA reporter Josh Gross' September 2015 article for Deadspin showed the extent to which the UFC allegedly monitored and allowed Vitor Belfort's testosterone use in an incontrovertible fashion, and that's to say nothing of the likes of Antonio Silva suggesting that the UFC sent him to get testosterone from and get his levels checked by Dr. Marcio Tannure, the much-embattled Brazilian doctor from Brazil's foremost regulatory body, CABMMA.

Simply put: the UFC, especially under its new WME-IMG ownership, does not want to relieve the testosterone replacement therapy era of MMA, which the promotion under Zuffa ownership helped duplicitiously support. White's own public flip-flop-flop-flop on TRT is pretty damning on its own. Heaven forbid people start actually giving testimony.

And there's Lesnar, who has all the incentive in the world to want to settle this before the UFC, White or anyone else. Silly as it seems, Lesnar has already reached an agreement with USADA and the Nevada Athletic Commission that would free him up to fight later this summer, about the time he'd want to take a fight anyhow. Beyond that, sillier as it seems, Lesnar is exactly the kind of dude that wouldn't want to be labeled a cheat and forced to testify to it, nevermind what ramifications could come if his WWE history came up. Plus, considering that a history tactic of the UFC was to prolong legal efforts against fighters until they bled their bank accounts dry, if Lesnar settles early, it gives Hunt a little legal leverage and a lot more financial leverage over the UFC if Hunt wants to push it.

Again, I'm no lawyer and this is MMA, a sport where absurd is the word. But, as I said the last time I wrote about Hunt, if the UFC's mandate is a clean sport and product, and Hunt can prove that was once categorical garbage, he deserves to get paid. Now, it seems like he might, maybe from multiple sources. There's still dozens of legal hurdles that could send “The Super Samoan” stumbling over himself, but at the end of the day, the reported nasty skeletons in the Zuffa era UFC closet are ones that the company may not want to see again. If we get to a point where Belfort is being called to testify, well, Hunt could get paid once again.

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