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By now, I'm sure you've seen Mark Hunt's harsh words for the UFC. After all, not too many folks have the gumption to go on Ariel Helwani's “MMA Hour” and say “F--- your s--- company” and call the promotion “scummy c----” to boot. These sorts of comments gain, shall we say, traction.
It's been compelling to watch the evolution of Hunt's thoughts on performance enhancing drugs in combat sports. Less than three years ago, he was mildly surprised but largely indifferent to being awarded $50,000 in bonus money from opponent Antonio Silva after their epic five-round brawl to a draw in Brisbane, Australia, when “Bigfoot”, who was on UFC-approved testosterone replacement therapy, tested outside the allowable range of testosterone-to-epitestosterone. By the time he fought Frank Mir, another former TRT user, earlier this year, Hunt was calling former TRT'er “bums” and that was before Mir tested positive for oral turinabol metabolites after their fight.
And now, here we are still wading through the post-UFC 200 wasteland, with Hunt calling the UFC corrupt, accusing them of supporting Lesnar's use of estrogen blockers, threatening to sue the company if they don't clean the sport up even further, talking about the need for a union and doing so in the most provocative language possible.
"People are scared for years because the company is going to get them. Well, f--- the company. They don't give a s--- about you or anyone else,” Hunt continued in his Monday tirade. “If I walk away now, I don't care. I walk away knowing that I haven't cheated to get in this spot.”
What's intriguing about Hunt's change of heart on all matters PED, though, is the motivation behind it. Undoubtedly, there is a certain kind of worldview and chip on the shoulder that is developed and fortified by a fighter facing and often losing to athletes linked to PED use, i.e. Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy's vehement public anti-doping stances. However, Hunt couches his current outrage as if he's only recently started facing opponents on steroids, as if he didn't make his star in K-1, where Bob Sapp was the company's greatest star ever and go on to fight in Pride, a promotion that despite its greatness and historical importance to MMA is also synonymous with rampant and encouraged PED use. No, what's different now is that there's money involved.
“You're not giving no penalties at all. USADA, f------ NASA, whatever the f--- they are, what penalties are they giving them? Nothing,” Hunt also said. “They're just saying, 'Oh hey, we caught this guy cheating and he has to give us all this money.' Why the f--- should you get it? Why should they get that s---? They're not the ones who lost.”
Based on his statements, this seems to be, unequivocally, what upsets Hunt the most. It's not that he lost, or even that he thinks the UFC were extra generous by waving the USADA's prefight mandatory four months of testing, it's that Lesnar made $2.5 million official dollars on paper and untold more millions in pay-per-view revenue and Hunt wants some of this. This is not surprising; prizefighting is about the prizes and Mark Hunt has always been a keen opportunist.
Because of his “Aw, shucks” folksiness, strange and often unintelligible social media stylings and infamous brawling style, it's easy to view Hunt as a simple sort of dude who has just rode the promotional waves in his career under the “have punches, will travel” mentality. Make no mistake, though, Mark Hunt throughout his entire pro career has always found himself the best way to make a buck, always ready to capitalize on an opportunity. After all, it's not like Hunt dreamed of becoming a famous combat athlete: he was a criminal who ended up a kickboxer because he impressed a bouncer in a streetfight. He wasn't supposed to be a part of the K-1 World Grand Prix in 2001 the year he won it, his greatest fighting achievement, but because he brawled with Ray Sefo, who beat him for the tourney berth, and Sefo wound up with a busted eye, Hunt got to take his place and have the best night of his professional career.
When he stopped getting bookings in K-1, he used his Japanese starpower to catch a pretty penny from Pride and then Dream for as long as he could. Most tellingly, despite five straight losses prior to his UFC debut, Hunt never stopped pressing Zuffa to honor his Pride contract despite the fact a) he could've likely challenged the contracts transferrability and been a free man and b) the UFC offered him $450,000 on a contract buyout. Instead, Hunt was bullish and got his wish, and despite somehow getting tapped instantly by Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut, has become a beloved heavyweight staple.
If K-1 or Pride had any interest in drug testing and under those systems, and fighters who tested positive had portions of their purses given to their opponents, Mark Hunt would've probably been a crusader for clean combat sports 15 years ago. In fact, it's ironic that in his anti-PED invective, Hunt has called for a fighter's association and got support from like-minded athletes, yet some of his stances are exactly the kind of things that such a union would rally against:
Well I wanted half but have changed my mind cheaters shouldn't get shit I want all of it cheaters don't deserve shit #cheatersdeservenada— Mark Richard hunt (@markhunt1974) July 16, 2016
If a fighter's association became a reality, fighters who are flagged for a potential violation are not going to sign on to have half and certainly not their entire purses taken by their opponents. But, Hunt's motivation here isn't solidarity; he's been given a cheater's money before and now he's entangled with a much, much richer cheater. This is the opportunism that Hunt has promotionally and professionally thrived on in his career. He is a 42-year-old battle tank in the twilight of his career with the ability to earn himself millions behind a sensible, righteous, largely coherent argument. In a sport where it's you against the world, Hunt knows how to look out for himself, his family, but ultimately, it's the same mentality which continues to hurt the efforts toward an MMA fighters' association when someone else's loss is your gain in a much more intimate, personal way, and when the sport's most clever politickers like Hunt or a Vitor Belfort-type can always be in position to make a shrewd buck.
Mark Hunt's lionized for his tenacity inside of the ring and cage, but damn if he doesn't know how to mix it up behind the scenes, too. “The Super Samoan” wants his money, and he's galvanized the sport with a fiery rant that spoke to the heart of people's dissatisfaction with the state of doping and anti-doping in MMA in an effort to get it. And you know what? Regardless of what percentage you think he deserves, if doping failures are supposed to be serious offenses and theoretically clean fighters are to be rewarded, Hunt should get paid.
Maybe Hunt's late-career run against PED users has suddenly opened his mind to the scale and profundity of the issue, but we're talking millions here, people. He might not be a classic suit, but “The Oceania Super Fighter” has proved a shockingly adept businessman over the last 20 years.