It wasn’t that long ago, just 16 months or so, when the MMA world was all a buzz about the title shot run of Mark Hunt. After all, following Hunt’s stoppage win over Stefan Struve last March, the feared striker was booked to take on former heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos in May, 2013.
Since Hunt had put together a four fight win streak, and was about to face the consensus #1 contender, a win over JDS could have propelled him into a scrap with champion Cain Velasquez. As you likely recall, it wasn’t mean to be, as dos Santos KO’d Hunt with an unforgettable spinning hook kick and went on to face the champ in October (and lost by fifth round stoppage).
While some might argue that the 40 year-old’s days as a title contender are likely over, “The Super Samoan” hasn’t given up on his championship goals. The #6 ranked Hunt is booked to fight the #8 positioned Roy Nelson at UFC FN 52 this Saturday, and while speaking to MMA Fighting.com about the fight, he relayed:
“It’s good for me to be doing what I’m doing at my age,” Hunt said. “I love doing what I’m doing. But when I’m finished, I’m not going to come back. I won’t need the money. The only reason I’m still fighting is because I believe I’m still the best fighter in the world. I want to beat Roy on Saturday night, and then I want to fight a top-five guy. Then I want to challenge for the title once, whoever that may be against. That’s all I’m interested in. I want one chance for that title shot.”
There’s no question that people have given up on Hunt before, and that the New Zealand fighter has made it a habit to prove them wrong.
Case in point, after Hunt was tapped out by Sean McCorkle at UFC 119 in 2010, nearly everyone under the sun believed the feared slugger’s MMA career was over. At the time, Hunt had lost six in a row, but the fighter turned it around and then some, and became one of the UFC’s top heavyweights.
While discussing his transition from kickboxing to MMA, Hunt noted:
“I had to learn a whole new sport,” said Hunt, who moved to MMA at the age of 30 and fought Hidehiko Yoshida in 2004. “It was difficult coming from a striking background, and I had to learn the hard way. I had only three or four weeks of training, and I got armbarred by a gold medalist. It was kind of tough to come from a standing striking background. I was like a fish out of water. It was a totally new and different challenge.”
Regardless of what’s on the line at UFC FN 52, Hunt-Nelson has the potential to be one special war. And not just a ‘oh, this should be a pretty good fight’, it’s a ‘dude, call in sick for work then; you’ve gotta watch this’ kind of bout.
Saturday’s card will be hosted by the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan and will be broadcast throughout North America on UFC Fight Pass.