"I don’t care if he is a black belt, red belt, green belt or whatever; I knock you in the head you’re out." - Mark Hunt
No matter how amazing the show, there is a process that unfolds before an attraction is able to reach “must see” status.
When things get started it is typically a buzz that kicks things off as people begin to share stories of awesomeness and wonder. These shared experiences are equal parts perception and anticipation as the energy generated quickly turns into wide-spread excitement. Suddenly, more and more eyes are drawn to this grand thing, and a performer who once toed the line of obscurity has been reborn in spectacular fashion.
Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the Mark Hunt show.
Although “The Super Samoan” has been doing his thing on the biggest stages in MMA for more than a decade, it’s the 40-year-old knockout artist’s most recent chapter that is what is driving him toward legendary status. Hunt has resurrected a career once considered to be on life support and has accomplished this feat with the sheer awesomeness of the thunder he carries in his hands and the resilience that beats within his chest.
After losing six consecutive fights in a four-year span, the lights appeared to be dimming on Hunt’s career. Yet, the scrappy New Zealand native found the motivation to reignite the fires of war, and raged back just as the vultures began to circle. He surged back with vigor and the results that would come to pass were devastating.
He melted Chris Tuchscherer to spark his comeback at UFC 127. Next, he folded seasoned veteran Cheick Kongo at UFC 144 in Japan, then literally split highly touted prospect Stefan Struve’s jaw with a brutal left hook one year later in the same arena. Suddenly Hunt was no longer a heavyweight past his prime, but a potential title contender. And a man possessed at that.
“It’s not been an easy road to travel,” Hunt said. “When you are losing, people don’t want to have anything to do with you anyways, and when you are winning they all want to give you advice. They hate you when you are losing, but love you when you win. It’s one of those double-edged swords, but hard work always pays off. Weird, but that’s how it works.”
While he would fail to make ground in his next two showings, his legend would only grow as fans were privy to a slugfest with former champion Junior Dos Santos and a five-round fight for the ages with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Those performances solidified the notion that a Hunt fight wasn’t one to miss and created a push throughout the MMA community for the former K-1 Grand Prix champion to get a crack at the greatest prize of all…the UFC heavyweight title.
That movement grew stronger when the heavyweight bomber leveled fellow brick-handed slugger Roy Nelson with another walk-off home run inside the Octagon. Nevertheless, the timing is crucial in such matters, and champion Cain Velasquez was set to defend his crown against No. 1 contender Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180 in Mexico City, Mexico. This meant Hunt was most likely going to have to take another fight before a title opportunity materialized, and he seemed perfectly content to do so.
Yet MMA is an unpredictable sport by its very nature, and when Velasquez was forced out of his title defense with an injury, the forces of the universe converged to give fight fans what they had been craving.
Hunt was tapped to face Werdum for the interim heavyweight title and the table was set for one of the most prominent long shot stories in the history of MMA to give his most grand performance yet. With all the drama and substance, it would take a team of seasoned Hollywood writers years to craft such a story, yet it’s simply the next fight for Mark Hunt.
He’ll step into the Octagon on Nov. 15 looking to do what he always does, and that special thing has become one of the greatest spectacles in the modern era of combat sports.
“It’s a great turn for me as a fighter because I get to fight for the No. 1 spot,” Hunt said. “This fight isn’t for the championship it’s for the No. 1 spot. Cain Velasquez is the champion and he’s injured. That’s the only reason why I’m here. It’s bad news for Fabricio because this was his shot to be the champion. I’m happy to be fighting Fabricio because I love to fight, but I’ve already won. I’m here after 24 years of fighting in two different sports. I’ve been to the top of both and I’ve already won just by coming here and competing for the No. 1 spot. Six fights previous and people would be laughing at me. They would be thinking it’s a joke. For me, fighting is all about doing the best I can with it and that’s all I care about.”
While Hunt’s rise to title contention makes for a great story, his upcoming matchup with Werdum also presents some interesting angles. Although the Kings MMA representative built a successful career in MMA with his BJJ prowess and submitted some of the biggest names to ever compete in the heavyweight ranks, it has been his ever-improving striking game that has been the most prominently highlighted skill during his run to a title shot.
In his most recent showing against Travis Browne, Werdum battered “Hapa” to the point he was toying with the rangy Hawaiian on the feet. For a fighter who many figured to be strongest on the canvas, his virtuoso showing back in April made the MMA world sit up and take notice.
At least for the most part, as Hunt apparently isn’t one of them. While he respects Werdum’s talents as a fighter, he isn’t concerned with what his Brazilian opponent brings to the table. He hasn’t wasted a moment on studying Werdum’s past fights because he believes everything goes out the window once the cage door closes. And it’s in those moments of chaos where Hunt feels at his best.
He’s confident in his ability to adapt to the flow of the fight and seize his opportunities when they are there for the taking. Hunt knows the power he carries in both hands and all it takes is one clean shot to put Werdum and his title hopes to rest.
“To be quite honest I haven’t seen Fabricio fight,” Hunt said. “I saw him fight back in PRIDE, but it’s not my job to sit down and study him. I’ll work out a game plan when I’m in there with him in the Octagon. There’s no reason to sit down and study him because everything always changes once the fight starts. I’ll do what I have to do when I’m in there.
“My primary job is to go in there and hurt him and put him out. That’s how I make my living. I don’t care if he is a black belt, red belt, green belt or whatever; I knock you in the head you’re out. If I get caught napping; I’m going out. If he gets caught napping the same thing is going to happen to him. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. It’s just a matter of what happens on that night when things go live.”
And if things go his way once the action gets underway inside the Octagon, then one of the greatest stories on the current landscape of mixed martial arts will reach new heights. Then again, even if things don’t go that way, it will still be worth the price of admission because it always is.
That’s the power of “The Mark Hunt Show”.