Mark Hunt: The Career and Legacy
By Calum Christie
The experienced veteran Mark Hunt (13-13 MMA, 8-7 UFC) is expected to make his final walk to the octagon on Saturday where he takes on AKA striker heavyweight Justin ‘Big Pretty’ Willis (7-1) in an eagerly anticipated bout in Adelaide, Australia.
The ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt is a very recognisable name in combat sports with him having numerous fights in MMA, kickboxing and 2 boxing bouts. The first noticeable time that hardcore fans were introduced to Mark Hunt was when he won the K-1 Oceanic title by defeating Phil Fagan in the 2001 finals. The South Auckland born fighter then went on to fight for numerous MMA promotions including PRIDE, DREAM and then the UFC.
When the UFC inherited PRIDE assets they originally waned to buy out the contract of Hunt who at that point in his career was going negative with a losing record of 5-6 and on a 5 fight losing streak with notable losses to Melvin Manhoef (30-14) and Gegard Mousasi (45-6) who are regarded as high level middleweight fighters.
Mark Hunt then had a tough loss in his UFC debut to Sean McCorkle
(19-7) by way of an arm bar submission. It looked like Hunt was going to be no more than a journeyman in the sport or at the most a fun crossover fighter who had most of his combat success as a kickboxer.
But in true Mark Hunt form he turned his career around by going on to win his next 4 UFC fights including wins against Stefan Struve (28-11), Cheick Kongo (29-10) and Ben Rothwell (36-10). He then went on to have 2 of the most epic fights in heavyweight history, with a Fight of the Night defeat against former UFC heavyweight title holder Junior Dos Santos and a draw against former title challenger Antônio ‘BigFoot’ Silva (19-12) in 2013.
Hunt’s UFC legacy will certainly be the turnaround of his MMA career, from being a competitor who was on a serious losing streak to being one of the most respected and feared heavyweight strikers of all time. If anyone was to suggest that Mark Hunt would have challenged for an interim UFC title opportunity against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and highly regarded Fabrício Werdum (23-8) after his PRIDE and DREAM days you may have looked at the person as being crazy. This is a testament to the hard work of Hunt and why he is seen as a huge fan favourite amongst many MMA fans who has a fan friendly style and went toe-to-toe with some of the biggest names that MMA has to offer. He has been a mainstay name in the top 10 ranking of the heavyweight rankings for numerous years now.
The K-1 2001 Grand Prix winner is also regarded as one of the pioneers for combat sport in the oceanic area with Hunt being one of the reasons that MMA became so mainstream in the Australian and New Zealand counterparts. Mark Hunt is also playing a key role in the development of up and coming Kiwi fighters including Saturday nights competitors Tyson Pedro (7-2) and Tai Tuivasa (8-0) which is important for the longevity of the sports future in this area.
Up and coming star Israel Adesanya (15-0) also recently stated in an interview with ESPN that Hunt “Paved the way” for Oceanic fighters and this will have a huge contribution to his ever lasting legacy in this region as he showed was a role model for many fighters in this catchment area for combat sports, we also may get to see Mark Hunt’s future in a coaching role being ever-present in the careers of his teammates who have previously been mentioned.
Mark Hunt also later in his career has been active in speaking out about steroids users and cheaters. Mark Hunt who is familiar with opponents who have had dealings with USADA including most notable, after his UFC 200 bout with WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. (Originally a unanimous decision win for Lesnar; overturned after he tested positive for clomiphene). Hunt could have a big role to play even after his career is over in terms of being an advocate on how to combat and weed out cheaters/steroid use in fighting sports and he has certainly not been shy in voicing his opinion on this matter.
Overall it’s been a career of ups and downs for the New Zealand veteran, but one thing is for sure he played a massive role in the sport of MMA having turned out for many of the biggest organisations and he must be respecting for always being available to fight the best of the best that the sport has got to offer.
Mark Hunt has quite rightly certainly earned his legendary status with his never quit attitude and his determination to prove that he can hang with these high level players. The kickboxing crossover was interesting, the PRIDE fight were a great experience but it was his UFC run that made Mark Hunt what he is today.