Mark Hunt sues UFC-Lesnar alleging doping fraud conspiracy

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Late last year Mark Hunt threatened to sue the UFC and Brock Lesnar after the high profile fighter tested positive for banned substances following UFC 200. He even suggested racketeering allegations. Today Hunt made good on his promise suing Zuffa, Lesnar, and Dana White in Federal Court.

The full court filing can be found here – mark-hunt-vs-ufc-doping-lawsuit (H/T to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto who broke this story and was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the filing).

In the 27 page filing, Hunt alleges a conspiracy between the UFC, White and Lesnar to allow Lesnar to compete at UFC 200 while on performance enhancing drugs without facing repercussions until after the fact.

In a soundbite the lawsuit suggests profit over safety.

Hunt highlights the UFC’s anti doping policy’s central goal of protecting fighters

ufc-doping-policy-mission-statement

then goes on to note that, by granting Lesnar an exemption of the usual 4 month USADA testing period for returning UFC athletes, the UFC conspired to allow Lesnar to dope violating the foundation of the anti-doping policy.

Hunt Conspiracy Allegation.PNG
Perhaps most troublesome for the UFC, Hunt goes on to allege that this is one incident in a history of doping coverups setting out a pattern opening the door to the UFC’s TRT Era alleging as follows:

Hunt TRT Era Allegatiion.PNG
The lawsuit relies on 8 causes of actions (ie formal legal grounds for suing). Hunt alleges the following

1.Unlawful Racketeering in violation of Federal law
2. Unlawful Racketeering in violation of Nevada state law
3. Fraud
4.Obtaining Hunt’s Services (to fight Lesnar) under false pretenses
5. Breach of Contract
6. Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
7. Negligence
8. Unjust Enrichment

Hunt’s likely biggest barrier to this lawsuit will be his own previous out of court statements noting that he did not care if Lesnar was doping, he would fight him anyway telling MMAJunkie, “I don’t care – everyone should be on a level playing field, to be honest, but it is what it is….I don’t care if you’re cheating or not. I’ll punch your face in. That’s all I’ve got.”

Zuffa will certainly throw this evidence in Hunt’s face challenging his suggestion that he is opposed to fighting PED-using opponents. Also troubling for Hunt will be the fact that Zuffa’s exemption for Lesnar’s four-month testing period was publicly revealed prior to the bout and Hunt fought anyways. It is difficult to suggest fraudulent concealment when the “concealed” facts were expressly known pre-fight.

Zuffa will likely attempt to rely on the waiver contained in the UFC/USADA anti-doping policy which Hunt contractually agreed to and reads as follows:

ufc-usada-waiver
Hunt’s allegations, however, go well beyond good faith mistakes and suggests a bad faith conspiracy so the above waiver likely will not be of value.

The UFC will also likely rely on the waiver in Hunt’s promotional contract which probably reads as follows:

Zuffa contract release 1.PNG

Zuffa contract release 2.PNG

If this lawsuit survives early attempts at dismissal based on the above waivers its game on. The suggestions of a long-running doping conspiracy going back to the TRT Era will open the door to a broad and ugly discovery process.

I suspect if this claim survives summary dismissal attempts Zuffa will be motivated to reach settlement before the sport’s TRT Era and in-house doping waivers are exposed under the bright spotlights of the judiciary. The harm that such a process can cause their brand, even if the lawsuit is successfully defeated, can greatly outweigh the short-term pain of a prompt and confidential settlement.

Erik Magraken is a British Columbia litigation lawyer, founder of the Combat Sports Law blog, combat sports law consultant, and profoundly appreciated UGer.