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UFC may have breached Mark Hunt’s contract but saved themselves from a much bigger lawsuit

By Zach Arnold | October 18, 2017

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If I die fighting, that’s fine.”

Mark Hunt’s health admission is a career killer but potentially a life extender. It’s also an opportunity for UFC and Mark Hunt to reach a divorce settlement.

Erik Magraken (@ErikMagraken) of Combat Sports Law recently did an interview with our friend Jordan Breen at Sherdog (listen here to Press Row). The somber discussion revolved around whether or not UFC had a legal leg to stand on for removing Mark Hunt from their UFC Sydney fight card after his Players Voice interview where he claimed to be suffering from slurred speech and sleeping problems. Hunt would later claim that his words were taken out of context.

If Players Voice took Mark Hunt’s word out of context, he should sue them for defamation. Instead, Hunt appears to be preparing a breach of contract lawsuit against UFC. Hunt already has one lawsuit against UFC stemming from his UFC 200 fight with Brock Lesnar.

Breach of contract vs. negligence claims

After the Players Voice interview was published online, UFC removed Mark Hunt from their UFC Sydney fight card. In response, Mark Hunt claimed that he passed medical examinations from Australian regulators and that he had spent $100,000 on his training camp for the UFC Sydney fight.

It doesn’t take a genius to see what causes of action Mark Hunt would be preparing to sue UFC over.

First, breach of contract. UFC booked Mark Hunt. Hunt claims he passed his medicals. UFC backed out of his contractual booking. Hunt suffered economic damages from his fight getting canceled.

Second, breach of implied covenant of good faith. Hunt and UFC have a history of bad blood. His Nevada lawsuit is Exhibit A. Hunt will argue that his Players Voice article was used as a pretext for UFC to retaliate against him for the legal troubles he has caused.

Hunt claims he detrimentally relied on UFC’s word and spent $100,000 in preparation to perform his contractual duties. Hunt will want damages from lost fight money and training camp expenses.

On his breach claims, Mark Hunt probably has a fair chance of winning a financial settlement against UFC.

UFC has a business to run. If they have to pay Mark Hunt to go away, they will. They are less concerned about a breach lawsuit and more concerned about a major lawsuit involving negligence.

When a fighter says he has brain damage, take his word seriously. Erik Magraken highlighted this succinctly in his Press Row interview.

“Contractually, they might not have the right to pull the guy from the fight.

“But if they put the guy on, that becomes the indefensible decision especially if something goes awry for Mark.”

UFC and its venture capital investors want no part of a wrongful death suit. They do not want to see a replay of what happened with Magomed Abdusalamov in New York.

Brain damage is a physical disability. It is more probable than not that Mark Hunt has suffered serious physical damage over his 20 year fighting career. UFC has a duty to care about the safety of their fighters. Letting Mark Hunt fight would be a breach of their duty to care. UFC could let Australian regulators absorb liability but they chose not to.

UFC’s decision to pull Mark Hunt is entirely reasonable. It’s also reasonable to argue that UFC potentially engages in disparate treatment regarding the health and safety of their fighters. It’s the whole point of Mark Hunt’s first UFC lawsuit over the Brock Lesnar fight. Additionally, Daniel Cormier claims that UFC told him not to address Kevin Lee’s staph infection at UFC 216 even after the Nevada State Athletic Commission gave Kevin Lee the green light to fight.

Hypocrisy never moves the needle but it’s a solid legal argument to make.

The big money behind UFC has every right to be risk averse when it comes to Mark Hunt. Negligence is “the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.” Letting Mark Hunt fight would be the textbook definition of reckless: substantial and unjustifiable risk. It would be unconscionable.

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