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Exclusive interview: Mark Hunt seeks 'even playing field' from UFC

Kiwi mixed martial artist Mark Hunt insists his lawsuit against his UFC employers isn't about the money.

"Otherwise, I would have said nothing, stuck to my contract and got paid millions there," he told NZ Herald Focus.

"This is not about money, it's about them doing what's right."

Today, Hunt (42) filed a $US2.5 million ($NZ3.5 million) suit in the Nevada District Court, claiming the UFC had "affirmatively circumvented and obstructed fair competition for their own benefit".

Still contracted to the UFC and preparing for his next fight against Alistair Overeem in March, the heavyweight is sick of being matched against rivals on steroids.

"The first time, it ruined the fight and I thought, 'Maybe it's just this guy'," Hunt told NZ Herald Focus exclusively. "The second guy ... the difference was I won the first fight, but this time I lost and it made me look differently at it.

"I thought this isn't fair. I broke my hand in the first fight against a cheater. I was out for a whole year, and he got suspended for nine months and was fighting before I did."

The last straw came when former WWE exponent Brock Lesnar beat Hunt at UFC 2000 last July, pocketing a record $2.5 million purse, but subsequently returned a positive drugs test. Lesnar was fined $250,000 and suspended for a year, eligible to return in July 2017.

"They [UFC] knew the guy was cheating and using steroids, and they allowed it to happen.

"For me, it's an unfair practice that they've been doing and not just this time - the last three guys I've fought have been on steroids.

"I tried to put a clause in [my contract] to make it an even playing field, but they wouldn't listen to it. They left no other option for me to do."

In fact, Hunt asserts he turned down another fight that could have been his fourth such mismatch.

"They asked me to fight in Melbourne," he claims. "I declined and the guy got popped two days later for steroids.

"I'm sick of this uneven playing field, I don't want to do it anymore. I've tried every other avenue to make it an even playing field with these guys, but I've had all the doors closed on me."

Hunt's stand seems to have met with a mixed reaction in a community that probably doesn't relish this kind of attention.

MMAFighting.com columnist Chuck Mindenhall applauds the principle, but insists it is really about the bottom line.

"Let's be honest, Hunt wants some freaking money," writes Mindenhall. "You can skew that as you want.

"He may not be making noise in the heavyweight title picture, but Hunt's making a certain kind of noise heading into his fight with Overeem. It's a noise that can't fall on deaf ears.

"The UFC will have to deal with Mark Hunt, after choosing not for so long. He's forcing the issue ... Hunt is a problem to be sorted out.

"Win or lose, he has always gone down swinging. Nothing different this time, except maybe where he's choosing to focus his aim."

Maybe Hunt is simply daring his employers to finally cut him loose.

"I've asked them to release my contact, when I first found out about this and they wouldn't do anything," he told NZ Herald Focus.

"I can get work somewhere else. The only reason they've locked me in this contract is they want me to be stuck here without any work.

"If they fire me, I'll go work somewhere else."

Hunt insists he still loves fighting - it's in his blood - but his recent experiences have left a bad taste in his mouth.

"Fighting is hard enough as it is, but it's meant to be an even playing field.

"These guys on steroids are just cheating and ruining the sport."

- NZ Herald

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