KNOCKED OUT

UFC Fighter Mark Hunt: League Let Me Fight a Doper

In a lawsuit filed this week, UFC fighter Mark Hunt says the league brought a doper out of retirement to fight him.

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A UFC fighter is hitting the league with a lawsuit, after he says he the Ultimate Fighting Championship turned a blind eye to steroid abuse by one of his opponents.

When Australia-based heavyweight Mark Hunt fell to fighter Brock Lesnar in a July 2016 bout, officials ruled Lesnar the winner. Later that month, UFC authorities discovered that Lesnar had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The results of the match were overturned.

But Hunt, a self-proclaimed “clean fighter” says the UFC knew of Lesnar’s doping, and helped the fighter skirt drug tests. In a Tuesday lawsuit, Hunt accused the UFC and its president Dana White of racketeering for what Hunt describes as a conspiracy to dope up the league’s preferred fighters. The suit, filed in a Nevada district court, seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the league, and for the defendants to “disgorge their ill-gotten profits”.

Hunt described his July loss to Lesnar as a major blow to his reputation, robbing him “of the opportunity to earn a win,” he alleged in his suit.

The much-hyped fight had been billed as Lesnar’s comeback after a five-year retirement. UFC rules require returning fighters to undergo four months of drug testing before they return to the ring. But Lesnar, who agreed to come out of retirement for the “one-off” bout was given a pass on the tests, due to “exceptional circumstances,” Hunt’s suit alleges.

The UFC announced Lesnar’s comeback fight on June 4, just one month before the July 9 bout was scheduled. The short notice appeared to prevent the league from administering the routine four months of drug testing.

But even before the announcement, Lesnar’s return had been rumored in mixed martial art circles. In May, Lesnar’s name appeared on the UFC’s online roster, but was quickly scrubbed. The league dismissed the incident as a glitch. On June 3, the day before Lesnar’s comeback match was announced, UFC president Dana White doubled down on the denial, claiming that Lesnar would not return to the league.

On June 7, however, the league issued a public statement admitting that “conversations with [Lesnar] have been ongoing for some time,” and that they had only closed the deal that week, when the WWE, where Lesnar usually performed, gave him permission to fight a UFC bout. In an interview, Lesnar was more explicit, telling a reporter that he had entered talks with the UFC “three months ago.” The window would have given him enough time to complete the four months of mandated drug testing, the lawsuit alleges.

Instead, the UFC asked Lesnar to complete two drug tests: one on June 28, and one on the night of July 9 fight. But neither sample was tested until after Lesnar entered the ring with the clean-testing Hunt, the suit alleges

Hunt’s lawyers say the convenient timing of Lesnar’s drug tests was a deliberate ploy by the UFC to get fighter into the match. “The UFC and USADA were aware of the option to expedite samples for a nominal fee but failed to do so,” his suit alleges. “The average turnaround time for expedited drug testing results is approximately three days,” giving the league ample time to test the samples before the fight.

“What’s important is that Brock Lesnar admits that four months prior to [the bout], he was in negotiations with the UFC to fight,” Hunt’s attorney Christina Denning told The Daily Beast.

“The four month testing agreement could have been complied with. They opted to wait and sign the bout agreement to grant him an exemption, claiming this was an exceptional circumstance.”

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When the fight finally came, Lesnar’s samples were allegedly still untested. He beat Hunt in three rounds, winning a record-breaking $2.5 million payout, plus a pay-per-view allocation, “which Hunt is informed and believes is in the millions of dollars,” the suit reads.

The fight was a sting to Hunt’s body and reputation. “He got beat up by someone who was using steroids and that caused him pain and discomfort,” Denning said.

A week after the fight, Lesnar’s drug test results returned. Both samples tested positive for Clomiphene and Hydroxyclomiphene, both banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The results of his fight with Hunt were changed to a “no contest.” In December, Lesnar settled with the league, claiming to have taken the drugs inadvertently, possibly by using a foot cream that his lawyers said might have contained the substances. The UFC slapped him with a one-year ban.

In a colorful July rant against the UFC, Hunt told the fighting show MMA Hour that the league had purposely overlooked Lesnar’s drug results.

“I’ll go and work somewhere else,” Hunt threatened on the show. “Like I said, I don’t give a shit. If we’ve got to sue their asses, well then fuck you, you’re going to get sued.”

This week, he made good on the threat. The UFC did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment.