Mark Hunt’s relationship with the UFC has hit a new low. The former K-1 World Grand Prix champion has never been on the easiest of terms with the promotion. Not since they tried to buy out his contract from PRIDE and he argued to fight for a spot on the roster instead. However, even with his ups and downs in the now-WME/IMG organization over the last 7 years, Hunt has molded himself into a headline attraction in the Octagon.
The question he’s facing today, though, is whether or not that’s all coming to an end? Despite being in the midst of an on-going legal battle stemming from his UFC 200 no-contest against Brock Lesnar, Hunt had been scheduled to face Marcin Tybura as the main event of UFC Sydney, this coming November 18th. But, that changed in the last couple weeks, after Hunt penned an article for the Player’s Voice, titled IF I DIE FIGHTING, THAT’S FINE.
In it Hunt talked about “the price of being a fighter,” including trouble speaking, trouble sleeping, and problems with his memory; essentially, signs of possible CTE. Shortly afterward, the UFC removed him from his upcoming bout. And what’s more, in an interview with ESPN Hunt says they didn’t even tell him directly.
"A journalist rings me up and says, 'You're not fighting in Sydney,'" Hunt told ESPN. "I had to check to see if it was true. I was really upset by that. I've lost a lot of money on this camp, and losing this fight will cost me over $1 million. I had plans for that money. I have taxes to pay. To hear it from a journalist -- they could have called me themselves.
"And the thing is, I didn't know why they pulled me. I still don't. I've passed all the medicals. I'd like to know the reason I've been put on the sideline."
The move has left Hunt wondering why, if the UFC is only looking out for his best interests, he seems to be the only one getting pulled from fight cards with a clean bill of health from the athletic commission?
"The UFC says they're acting for my well-being," he said. "Why did they put me in the Octagon with all these cheaters, then? Why are they letting [Georges St-Pierre] fight again when he's talked about seeing aliens? They just let a guy [lightweight Kevin Lee] fight with a staph infection last week. If they're worried about our well-being, why did they do all that?"
To answer his own question, Hunt postulates that it’s “because of the lawsuit.” Referring to his litigation against the UFC and Brock Lesnar, in which he accuses the two parties of colluding to allow Lesnar to compete in the UFC while using performance enhancing drugs. Hunt also added that the UFC has not yet “stipulated what he needs to do,” only telling him that they’d get back to him once they got what they needed.
It seems like a strange move from the UFC if this is punishment for Hunt’s legal actions, as Hunt filed his lawsuit back in January and has fought twice for the promotion since then. However, they do appear to have put themselves in a difficult bind if this is simply about the fighter’s CTE related statements, as the condition is still very difficult to diagnose with 100% certainty while a person is alive. Recent studies may be changing that. But until they do, the UFC will be faced with the choice of letting Hunt fight despite his comments about his health, or having to buy out his contract or risk facing another lawsuit.