mma / Columns

Mark Hunt: His UFC Cold War Is Starting to Thaw

December 23, 2016 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported that a heavyweight fight between Mark Hunt and former title contender Alistair Overeem is in the works, and it could happen as early as UFC 209 in March. Why this is interesting is because a few months ago, Hunt had gone flaming mad after his then-loss to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200. Lesnar failed his pre- and post-fight drug tests. Hunt was furious. He made ultimatums and demands, and he also threatened legal action against the UFC. This is a far cry from the man who said last July to The New Zealand Herald, “I would be walking away from a lot. If they don’t sort something out… but you probably won’t see me working for the UFC again.” So, it seems at least some sort progress has been made. However, Hunt is making other demands. If he really is going to fight again, I see no realistic way those demands are going to be met.

In July, when this whole situation started breaking down, I wrote a column sharing why I felt Hunt was wrong and handling this whole situation poorly. Now to be fair, I want to say that Hunt has good reason to be angry and upset. At the same time, I maintain that it’s not the UFC’s fault if fighters try to cheat and game the system. At least to the point where the UFC now has an out-of-competition drug testing and regulatory body in place with the US Anti-Doping Agency. Also, when this first started coming out, no matter what happened, Lesnar was still allotted a legal process that had to take its course. Hunt had a lot of righteous anger, but moving forward, these issues have to be handled with organization and procedurally. The UFC can’t just deem, “Well, guess what?! Lesnar, you cheated, so we are taking away all your money and handing it over to Mark Hunt! Nyah!” That’s not how the business works, and it’s never worked that way.

On his own website, MarkHunt.tv, Hunt stated he wouldn’t fight Alistair Overeem in the Octagon unless UFC gave him special clauses to protect him in the event Overeem was caught cheating. He stated: “My clause will protect me in this instance and take the financial gain of the opponent of caught cheating. That deterrent will protect me and other fighters. I’m pushing for this clause, I want to fight and I am ready. If the fight doesn’t go ahead it’s not my doing. I will not fight without this clause. I’ve already fought 3 dopers in a row and I’m not going to fight again without security. All I want is a fair go and an even playing field.”

First of all, no commission or Alistair Overeem would agree to hand over his entire show purse for such a thing. My understanding is the commissions withhold entire fight purses in combat sports is on the basis of some type of foul play. In 1997, The LA Times reported that then Nevada Governor Bob Miller signed a bill that would allow the state of Nevada to fine a fighter his full purse to engage in any activity resembling the infamous incident where Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s hear off in their bout on June 28, 1997. That bout saw Tyson receive a $3 million fine, which was 10 percent of his $30 million purse. Holyfield also had his boxing license revoked as a result of the madness. So, the only way Overeem would get his whole purse taken away is by doing something such as that. Even then, it would probably not be awarded to Hunt. Hunt was demanding he get all of Brock Lesnar’s purse after the drug test news came out (see below).

Here is the problem with the demands Hunt is making. If Hunt is asking for some sort of financial renumeration in the event cheating is found, Overeem and his camp would have to agree to this provision as well. And why the hell would they? No fighter, camp, manager, or agents would agree to any such provisions. Fighters like to puff up their chests and say they will put their whole purse up for such and such things to happen, but it never goes through. For starters, I doubt any athletic commission would ever allow. And here, I doubt the athletic commission would be willing to agree to such a deal either. Hunt is going to get nowhere fast for such provisions.

Also, at this point, I’m not sure realistically what else UFC and USADA can do in this case if Hunt still wants to fight. I checked USADA’s Athlete Test History page. It’s up there and available for anybody to use and check. Since the UFC started its drug testing program with USADA, Alistair Overeem has been tested 11 times. Seven of those tests happened in 2016. This doesn’t mean Overeem is definitively not trying to cheat. For all we know, fighters might still be trying to game the system and are ahead of the curve with the USADA tests. At the same time, UFC started this program. Overeem is in the testing pool. He’s getting his blood and urine tested year round.

When Hunt was fighting in Pride FC, he never had these complaints. Hunt was a fighter in Pride in Japan where there were literally no safety nets in place such as this, and fighters weren’t going to get tested at all. He fought Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop at the height of their Pride careers. Do you honestly expect me to believe all those men, in an industry where PEDs have run rampant, were all on their honor system and were definitely not juicing? My point is this. Times have changed, and there is much more regulation and testing now then earlier in Hunt’s career when he had no complaints. More recently, Brock Lesnar’s UFC 200 win over Mark Hunt was overturned. In other words, his most recent loss was expunged from his record.

As far as a fair go and an even playing field, I’m not sure what else can be done here. Overeem’s a documented PED user before, no matter what he says. He’s in testing pool and being tested heavily. No matter what you say about USADA, they are testing the entire roster on a regular basis. Cheaters are being found, exposed and punished. However, even if there’s a provisional suspension for an apparent failure, a fighter is still allowed a hearing and legal due process in such an event, whether Hunt approves or not. In conclusion, if Hunt really wants to fight again, I’m not sure how far he’s getting with these demands. Just as he didn’t get very far with his lawsuit threats or demand to get all of Brock Lesnar’s UFC 200 fight purse. It’s not happening.

Jeffrey Harris is 411mania’s resident Jack of All Trades and has covered MMA for the site since 2008. You can shoot him an e-mail at [email protected] or hit him up on Facebook. He also co-hosts the 411 Ground & Pound Radio podcast along with Robert Winfree. You can listen to the latest episode of the podcast in the player below.

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