Mark Hunt has been pulled from his slated UFC Fight Night 121 headliner with Marcin Tybura and the circumstances surrounding his removal are explosive and provocative.
On Tuesday, Ultimate Fighting Championship officials confirmed that Hunt had been removed from main event slot after the promotion became aware of a recent article the heavyweight contender wrote for Australia’s Players Voice last month in which the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix champion admitted that he had been suffering from worrying signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Hunt’s spot will be filled by former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, who needed just 65 seconds to submit Walt Harris at UFC 216 on Oct. 7. UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Nov. 19 at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia.
Hunt’s article, entitled “If I Die Fighting, That’s Fine,” was published on Sept. 14. In the piece, “The Super Samoan” lambastes previous opponents and fighting contemporaries who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs, while lamenting the money and financial opportunities he feels he lost out on as a result of fighting “cheaters” and “monkeys.” However, the 43-year-old, who has spent 20 years as a professional prizefighter, opens the essay by conceding a variety of cognitive and neurological symptoms consistent with the early signs of CTE.
“My body is f---ed but my mind is still here. I’ve still got my senses about me and I know what’s right and wrong, which is the main thing,” wrote Hunt. “Sometimes I don’t sleep well. You can hear me starting to stutter and slur my words. My memory is not that good anymore. I’ll forget something I did yesterday but I can remember the s--- I did years and years ago.”
“That’s just the price I’ve paid – the price of being a fighter,” he continued. “But I’ve fought a lot of drug cheats and copped a lot of punishment from guys who were cheating and that’s not right.”
In a report by Australia’s Daily Telegraph, an unnamed UFC official explained the native New Zealander’s removal.
“Following a recent first-person article published by heavyweight Mark Hunt, the UFC has taken the precautionary steps of removing Hunt from a previously announced bout in Sydney, Australia,” said the UFC rep.
“The health-related statements made by Hunt in the article represent the first time UFC was made aware of these claims,” they continued. “Athlete health and safety is of the utmost importance to the organization and it would never knowingly schedule an athlete complaining of health issues for a fight. The organization will require that Hunt undergo further testing and evaluations prior to competing in any future UFC bout.”
Shortly after he was taken out of the contest, the ever-candid Hunt hit back at the UFC and its president Dana Whit in a profane Instagram post.
Hunt was brutally knocked out by fellow former K-1 World Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem this past May but rebounded in his hometown of Auckland in June, stopping Derrick Lewis in a four-round slugfest.
“The Oceania Super Fighter” is also in the process of suing the UFC pursuant to his UFC 200 loss in July 2016 to former UFC heavyweight champion and pro-wrestling star Brock Lesnar, who twice tested positive for the banned estrogen blocker clomiphene. Hunt’s ongoing suit alleges that alleging the UFC, Lesnar and Dana White committed racketeering, fraud, battery and civil conspiracy by letting Lesnar fight with knowledge that he was actively using banned performance enhancing substances.