Mark Hunt has boxed himself into a corner.
Hunt’s strident stance on the rampant doping in the UFC is brave and admirable. It would have been easy enough for the 43-year-old career fighter to shrug at the further injustices of a life that has been stacked with them, bank a few more hefty UFC cheques and then quietly exit stage left.
Instead Hunt chose to go to war with his employer, taking his fight for compensation over Brock Lesnar’s doping up for their megafight to the courts and his publicly airing his grievances at every turn.
The curious situation of Hunt still headlining UFC cards and cashing in on the final fights of his lucrative contract while flaying the hand that is feeding him never appeared likely to last – and so it hasn’t.
“U getting another lawsuit” was the essence of Hunt’s Instagram post to UFC boss Dana White after being pulled from a forthcoming fight card in Sydney.
The post also contained an impressive array of insults and eight middle finger emojis, so it’s fair to say Hunt wasn’t happy.
The problem for Hunt was that he didn’t really leave the UFC much choice but to sideline him.
Hunt has made repeated references to the harms he has suffered when fighting against doped-up opponents. And he has alleged the UFC had been complicit in allowing that to happen.
In the self-by-lined article in the Players Voice webzine, Hunt detailed the effects a life in the ring had begun to have on his health.
“Sometimes I don’t sleep well,” he wrote. “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 shit I did years and years ago. That’s just the price I’ve paid – the price of being a fighter.
“But I’ve fought a lot of drug cheats and copped a lot of punishment from guys who were cheating and that’s not right.”
That’s a textbook description of symptoms related to repeated head trauma.
Given that Hunt is suing the UFC over the damages he has suffered (both physical and financial) under its mismanagement, the UFC really had little choice but to pull Hunt once it became aware of his self-proclaimed health issues.
“Following a recent first-person article published by heavyweight Mark Hunt, the UFC has taken the precautionary steps of removing Hunt from a previously announced bout in Sydney, Australia,” a UFC official said on Wednesday.
“The health-related statements made by Hunt in the article represent the first time UFC was made aware of these claims.
“Athlete health and safety is of the utmost importance to the organisation and it would never knowingly schedule an athlete complaining of health issues for a fight. The organisation will require that Hunt undergo further testing and evaluations prior to competing in any future UFC bout.”
Not included in that statement is the UFC’s obvious concern that the company would see little value in opening itself up to claim for even greater damages or the likelihood of another, separate lawsuit from the increasingly litigious Hunt.
“The interview I did with Player’s Voice was misquoted I don’t slur my words and is a running joke between my wife and me”
– Mark Hunt
If Hunt fights again in the UFC, his health suffers further and he ultimately is successful in his legal claim that the UFC’s negligence harmed him, it would add weight to his claim for damages.
He’s clearly furious now, but it’s not too big a stretch to imagine Hunt, if his health declines in years to come, figuring the UFC was negligent in letting him fight on when he was already on record describing deeply worrying symptoms.
Existing on a quasi-reality TV plane that intentionally blurs the line between showbusiness and real life, the UFC isn’t an organisation that oozes sincerity and naturally elicits sympathy. But in this case – what choice does it have?
Hunt, for his part, now says there is nothing wrong with his health.
“The interview I did with Player’s Voice was misquoted. I don’t slur my words and is a running joke between my wife and me my memory isn’t that great but who remembers shit they don’t want to,” he said on Instagram.
That attempt to re-write history won’t wash. The Player’s Voice article will have been ghost-written, certainly, but as it is in his name Hunt will have most certainly been given full copy approval. If the words attributed to him were not accurate he would have had ample opportunity to have them amended prior to publication.
Hunt also needs to face reality. His last fight against Derrick Lewis in Auckland was terrible. In a contest that essentially involved two large, brave men exchanging massive blows to the head until one could no longer continue, Thanks to his bravery, brawn and indomitable spirit, Hunt won out. But there was no guile, no artistry. It was kind of sad.
At the post-match press conference Hunt was lucid, thoughtful and loquacious. He didn’t slur. But he did admit he couldn’t think of anything else he could do with his life.
That clearly needs to change. And it looks like the decision has been made for him.