UFC president Dana White is denying that there are any ulterior motives to company officials recently making the decision to remove Mark Hunt from the main event of UFC Sydney.
Hunt was originally scheduled to fight Marcin Tybura in the heavyweight main event of the Nov. 18 show that is set to take place at the Qudos Arena in Sydney, Australia. However, on Oct. 10, the UFC announced that Fabricio Werdum would be stepping in to replace Hunt due to concerns over Hunt’s health.
According to UFC officials, the change was made based on a testimonial that Hunt had written for the Players Voice this past September, in which the 43-year-old fighter said that he was slurring his words and having difficulty remembering things.
Complicating matters further is the fact that Hunt is currently involved in a lawsuit against his employers, White, and Brock Lesnar over his belief that the UFC circumvented drug testing rules to allow Lesnar to fight him at UFC 200. Lesnar defeated Hunt by unanimous decision, but he was later flagged for two separate USADA violations.
Hunt and White have already had some indirect back-and-forth discussion, with Hunt going off on White via Instagram, and White responding in a brief conversation with TMZ.
Now White has issued a more formal reply to the criticisms being levied against his promotion in the form of an open letter. See his full statement below (per the Daily Telegraph):
Mark Hunt was never “cleared” to fight Marcin Tybura in Sydney, Australia this November. Period. And the statements he’s been making, saying that he is, are just not true.
Let me tell you what I know.
Mark Hunt recently wrote an op-ed piece for an Australian website that described some serious symptoms.
He wrote that he’s starting to stutter and slur his words.
He wrote that he’s not sleeping well.
He wrote that he can’t remember something he did yesterday.
These are his words, from him, but now he’s saying it was taken out of context. How can you take your own words out of context? So you know what I did? My team contacted his management within the first week of learning about these symptoms and offered to fly him to Las Vegas first class to visit the Lou Ruvo Brain Center — which is the best in the world for brain research — to get more tests done. And you know what? He absolutely refused.
How can I put a guy with these symptoms he said he’s experiencing immediately back in the Octagon without additional tests? I definitely wasn’t going to do that. So I did the only thing I could do — which is to pull him off an event that would have him fighting just nine weeks after writing his piece so he can have the proper time to see a specialist. Let me remind you that this is an event I already had signed contracts for and spent a lot of money marketing and advertising, so this was a big loss. But it was the right thing to do.
So here we are now. After all of this, Mark is saying that I have it out for him and I am holding a grudge because he filed a lawsuit. Let me ask you this:
Would I have placed him in two additional fights, including one in which he headlined the event?
Or paid him 1.645 million dollars, which includes a $50k Fight of the Night bonus and a $25k discretionary bonus?
All of this was AFTER the lawsuit, so how can anyone say I have any issues with this guy?
Bottom line, my job is to put on the best fights in the world and part of that is to protect these guys from themselves. I get it, they’re fighters and they want to fight. But this only works if safety comes first, and that’s always been my goal — to provide a level playing field and a safe, regulated environment for our fighters to compete in. I’ve been doing that for almost 20 years and I’m not going to stop now.