If you’re an ardent supporter of clean competition, Mark Hunt’s situation in the UFC would probably leave you feeling a little agitated. The ‘Super Samoan’ just fought – and lost to former number one contender Alistair Overeem at UFC 209, with both the heavyweights opening the main card. Hunt lost the fight by knock out in the third round, as Alistair closed the distance, and caught Hunt with a couple of vicious knees to the head.
It is a weird situation to be in, especially if you consider the fact that Overeem just fought for the heavyweight strap, while Mark Hunt’s last fight before UFC 209 was a high profile showdown with Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.
However, the events that transpired after Hunt’s fight with Lesnar highlights the importance of representation for the fighters. With Lesnar being exempted from entering the USADA testing pool before the fight, there was a realistic possibility of Lesnar going into the fight with an unfair advantage. In the end, Hunt’s fears came true, as Lesnar tested positive for banned substances, and was subsequently suspended for a year.
The repercussions? Lesnar was fined 10% of his disclosed payout – a measly amount considering he received the highest disclosed amount at the time, and walked away with millions. Hunt on the other hand felt shortchanged, as he had to fight three opponents who later tested positive for banned substances – two of them in the UFC.
Hunt then took a stand against ‘dirty’ fighters, resulting in the fighter and promotion reaching an impasse. Hunt filed a lawsuit against Lesnar, UFC and Dana White, while more recently, UFC moved to dismiss Hunt’s lawsuit. From the outside looking in, it sounds like a bad deal for Mark Hunt, who, given his outspoken nature was expected to face the wrath of the UFC management. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened.
During the fight week, Hunt took part in a media scrum, and when asked about his thoughts and feelings about being back amidst the people he recently filed a lawsuit against, Hunt revealed that he was forced to accept the fight.
“I was forced to be here. I was told, ‘If you don’t take this fight it’s against your contract.’ Why should my family suffer and miss out on my hard work? They deserve to have the better things in life because I’ve gotten beaten up to get here, so why should they miss out? I haven’t done nothing wrong here, so why should I be the outsider here? The other guy is the guy that cheated. All these other guys that cheat should be put on a pedestal like, ‘That guy’s a cheat. He shouldn’t be here.’”
“I didn’t want to be in this position. They gave me no choice. What am I supposed to do? Keep coming to work and fighting steroid cheaters. How would you feel going to work losing to guys? And it is losing. Because if you do lose, you lose. You don’t get no benefit from it. This is supposed to be the best fighters in the world, not the best cheaters in the world or the best guys that can hide it with doctors. The reason I’ve done this is because it’s been a pattern of things that happened.”
“Even seeing Alistair outside it really irritates me up my skin that I have to share the octagon with guys that have cheated to get here. I feel it’s the UFC’s job to back the guys that have done nothing wrong. We’ve done nothing wrong. The UFC needs to go and do this.”
“It takes the legitimacy out of it. There’s no legitimacy here. 60 percent of the roster is cheating. They’re using steroids.”
The issue, on a moral standpoint, is self explanatory. If you’re a fighter, fighting in the biggest MMA promotion in the world, you’d expect certain standards the other fighters should adhere to. However, if you’re ostracised for standing up for yourself, that is where you need the backing of your peers and those involved within the industry. However, as Hunt found out, that is almost always not the case.
“They don’t talk to me anymore,” Hunt told the media about his relationship with the UFC officials. “It’s just lawyer talk now. All I ask for is an even playing field. Put in a clause that if he gets caught doping, after he gets processed by USADA or whatever, all his money should go to the guy who didn’t cheat. It pays to cheat right now. It shouldn’t be like that.” (Interview taken from MMAJunkie.com)
So the question remains – who can the fighters turn to, when they are backed up against the wall by those who are responsible for ensuring fairness and transparency to begin with? This is where the role of an MMA union becomes crucial. After all the hoopla surrounding different associations, federations and unions cropping up to ensure fighter safety and fairness, Hunt is once again left alone to fend for himself.
For the past couple of years, numerous fighters have lobbied for the Ali Act to be extended to the sport of MMA. From fairness and transparency in the fight purse to ensuring title fights for deserving contenders, the Ali Act could solve a lot of issues persisting in the UFC, and in the world of mixed martial arts. However, extending the Act to MMA isn’t easy, and a better solution would be for the fighter’s association to step up and work with the MMA promotions.
MMA unions and associations need to stop fighting amongst themselves
It is no secret that the different unions and associations are going after their own separate agendas. When the Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association (MMAAA) addressed the need for fighters to come together to ensure better working conditions for the fighters, this is what Georges St – Pierre had to say.
“We’re here today to take a stand and also fight for all the fighters who have those same problems. Fighters who got bullied and intimidated.”
However, now that the time for talk is over, the situation with Hunt once again reminds everyone involved in the business, that it is just that – business. MMA fighters need better representation, and a union to ensure that they aren’t thrown into the deep end. However, considering everyone has their own vested interest to look after, it is difficult to see any body functioning purely for the betterment of the fighters’ conditions in the sport.
The fighters need a union now more than ever, but unfortunately, it might take a long time for that to happen.