He said he was going to do it and he did. On Tuesday, UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt filed a RICO lawsuit in Nevada federal court against the UFC, Brock Lesnar, and Dana White. Other charges include conspiracy to commit crime related to racketeering, fraud, false pretenses, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, and unjust enrichment.
Hunt unloads in his complaint, citing the Fertitta brothers “2000 percent return on their 2001 investment,” the UFC’s “disproportionate share” of revenue, “contractual compulsion” to fight opponents who use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), and the obstruction of “fair competition.”
Regarding Lesnar, Hunt claims, “Without HUNT’s knowledge or consent, the UFC conspired and caused LESNAR, a doping fighter, to fight HUNT, a clean fighter, despite the fact that LESNAR used substances banned by the UFC, USADA and WADA. The substances, Clomiphene and 4-Hydroxyclomiphene, are known ‘Post Cycle Therapy’ (‘PCT’) substances believed to be used after a period of strength training with anabolic steroids or similar prohibited substances.”
Hunt cites a pattern of conduct that consistently jeopardizes fighter health and safety for profit including the granting of doping and drug test exemptions to known dopers and causing them to compete with clean fighters, noting that his last three opponents had used PEDs.
As a factual allegation common to all Hunt’s causes of action, he claims the UFC suppressed Vitor Belfort’s drug test results for UFC 152, and walks through a timeline of how a UFC paralegal inadvertently e-mailed Belfort’s drug test results to 29 other fighters, trainers, and managers. His results were flagged for having free testosterone approximately 2.5 times the normal range.
“Notwithstanding Belfort’s drug test result, the UFC concealed and actively suppressed by threat of litigation the test results, and caused and permitted the bout between Belfort and Jones to proceed. On information and belief, the UFC permitted Belfort to fight notwithstanding his drug testing results, in part, to prevent the embarrassment of a subsequent cancelled event, damage to the reputation and brand of the UFC, and in direct pursuit of profit, to the detriment of fighter safety, in violation of state and federal law as described further below,” Hunt alleges.
Regarding UFC 200, Hunt claims the UFC and Lesnar began negotiations in March 2016, more than four months prior to the event and enough time to comply with USADA protocols.
On or about June 6, 2016, LESNAR was registered by USADA into the UFC Anti-Doping Policy testing pool. On information and belief, premised on publicly available documents, on or around July 1, 2016, the NSAC requested further information from UFC justifying the LESNAR drug testing retirement exemption.
In an email from UFC executive Jeff Novitzky, dated July 1, 2016 at 12:23 p.m., UFC admitted to the NSAC that UFC notified LESNAR he would not be drug tested until he executed his UFC 200 bout agreement.
Defendants LESNAR and UFC both had actual knowledge of LESNAR’s impending participation in UFC 200 more than four months in advance of that event, constituting sufficient time for LESNAR to comply with USADA drug testing protocols.
The UFC “conspired and caused” Lesnar to evade USADA drug testing, according to the complaint.
To Hunt, the one-off nature of Lesnar’s permission to return to the UFC in spite of his exclusive WWE contract eliminated the disincentive to dope. “LESNAR’s and UFC’s interests in having LESNAR compete in UFC 200 were aligned such that any punishment from a doping violation, including suspensions or fines, would be relatively negligible,” he claims.
Even though Lesnar’s win was overturned to a No Contest, Hunt believes his reputation was damaged and he lost the opportunity to further his career and earning potential.
Citing the failed drug tests of two other opponents, Frank Mir and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Hunt claims the UFC’s conduct “represents a pattern of liberally granting purported use exemptions and other drug testing exemptions” without safeguards to prevent abuse.
In his RICO charge, Hunt alleges that the defendants wrongfully maximized profit, including the recent $4.2 billion UFC sale, “to the detriment of the health and safety of all fighters and to the detriment of fair competition.”
Hunt is seeking compensatory damages according to proof, triple damages, and punitive damages “sufficient to deter illegal doping in the sport of mixed martial arts.”
The UFC will likely move to dismiss the charges next. Bloody Elbow will keep readers updated as the case progresses.
Paul is Bloody Elbow’s analytics and business writer. Follow him @MMAanalytics.