Court – Combat Sports Athletes Consent to Fight Doping Competitors

This week reasons for judgement were released dismissing much of Mark Hunt’s doping lawsuit against the UFC and others following his bout with Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.  All claims were dismissed except his allegation of breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Of particular interest to me were the court’s comments on the allegation of battery.  Hunt argued that he never consented to fight a doping opponent and this vitiated consent made the bout tantamount to battery.  The Court disagreed and found that athletes in MMA implicitly consent to fight doping opponents as it is an inherent risk of the sport.

For whatever its worth fighters who participated in my informal twitter poll beg to differ:

The Court noted that doping is different than a fighter bringing loaded gloves to the ring or cheating by other means.  In dismissing the battery claim US District Judge Jennifer Dorsey provided the following reasons:

Hunt counters that his fight with Lesnar exceeded the scope of his consent, which he contends didn’t extend to fighting a doping fighter.

 But the fact that Lesnar allegedly violated the rules of the sport does not automatically negate Hunt’s consent. In the California Supreme 

Court’s widely cited decision in Avila v. Citrus Community College District , a baseball batter claimed that the pitcher intentionally threw the pitch at his head, which he argued exceeded his assumption of risk.
Acknowledging that this pitch “is forbidden by the rules of baseball,” the court held that being hit by a pitcher, even intentionally, “is an inherent risk of baseball.”
So, although an “athlete does not assume the risk of a coparticipant’s intentional or reckless conduct‘totally outside the range of the ordinary activity involved in the sport,’” the pitcher’s intentional throw did not fall outside of this range.
Like that intentional throw, the fact that Lesnar was allegedly doping violated the bout rules established by UFC and the NAC but does not alone establish that his conduct exceeded the ordinary range of activity in an MMA fight. As Hunt’s own allegations demonstrate, doping is an unfortunately common issue in MMA and was a risk he perceived. And although he argues that doping empowered Lesnar to move faster and hit harder, Hunt doesn’t allege that Lesnar’s conduct during the bout was somehow atypical—such as throwing Hunt out of the octagon orusing “packed gloves” or a weapon. Nor does Hunt claim that his injuries exceeded those typical of an MMA bout. Accordingly, I find that Hunt consented to his fight with Lesnar, which precludes civil-battery liability. I therefore dismiss with prejudice this claim against Lesnar under count eight and the aiding-and-abetting claim against UFC and White under count nine.

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