COMMENTARY | When Mark Hunt made his UFC debut in 2010, he was in the midst of a five fight losing streak. He would suffer his sixth consecutive loss at the hands of Sean McCorkle at UFC 119. He could have been shown the door by UFC president Dana White, but Hunt had another fight left on his contract after Zuffa bought out PRIDE FC. With his back against the wall and his MMA career hanging in the balance, Hunt scored a devastating 2nd round knockout over Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127. His five years of not having his hand raised had finally ended and one of MMA's most surprising stories had begun.
Nobody thought much about it though. With Hunt having a record of 6-7, nobody really considered Hunt as a threat to any of the top tier UFC heavyweights. Nobody, except for Hunt.
For Hunt, being told that he wasn't good enough to compete for a UFC title fueled the fire that burned deep in his Samoan belly and drove him to an unlikely winning streak. At UFC 160 he'll face former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos in a fight that will likely put him in line for a crack at the heavyweight title. To Hunt, Dos Santos is just another fighter everyone thinks is going to walk over him.
And that's the way he likes it.
It certainly isn't the first time Hunt was told he wasn't good enough but he relishes in the role of being the underdog. If it was up to him, he'd have it no other way. "I'm always the underdog," Hunt said during Thursday's media day for UFC 160. But instead of being frustrated with the fact that he's rarely, if ever, the favorite to win, Hunt cracks a smile. "But I probably won't be fighting anymore if I'm the top guy."
Surely what Hunt is saying is more tongue in cheek, but you have to wonder how serious he is. Being told that he cannot do something has become as familiar as seeing the sun rise. "For as long as I can remember I got into a number of altercations I was told that I wasn't good enough...at anything," he said. "Tell me I'm not good enough and I'm going to prove you wrong."
When Hunt began his K-1 career by being the guy promoters wanted to use as a stepping stone for their up and coming fighters. Maybe it was his body structure that was more chunky than chiseled. Either way, Hunt began knocking off opponents left and right, with lefts and rights. By the time he turned his attention to mixed martial arts, Hunt had become known as a deadly striker, but far from unbeatable. He would win a few, shock the world and just as fight fans were ready to declare him as good enough, he'd go and lose a fight. An uneven career in pre-UFC career included victories over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and losses to Josh Barnett and Gegard Mousasi. It's almost as if he would purposefully never obtain the top spot because his motivation would wane. But it's different now for the 39-year-old. It's time to prove that he is good enough.
"I'm here to go to war and take what is mine," Hunt said as not even visa issues would stop him from achieving his goal. "I'm not going to put my hand out and wait for someone to give it to me. If I want it, I'm going to take it." With the heavy hitting Dos Santos standing in his way, it appears that this fight is destined to be a barn burner. Both the Brazilian and the Samoan are known for their heavy hands and wicked striking ability. Neither seem all that interested in letting the fight hit the ground. Dos Santos has stated several times that the fight would end in a knock out. When told of his opponents prediction, Hunt grinned and said "I feel the same way."
Never the one to mince words, Hunt further clarified his stance by saying that it's not really personal, it's just the law of a Mark Hunt fight. "It's always going to finish with a knockout. I don't need any judges judging my fights."
But even if Hunt does score the upset and get a shot at UFC gold, he doesn't appear to be entertained by the growing fame he will continue to gain. The fans love him, he could even be a hugely marketable guy and land some commercials. The mere thought causes Hunt to scrunch his face up. Fame and fortune isn't what it is about anymore.
"I'm not interested in money or any of that crap anymore," he said. "I don't care if I have $10 million or $10 in my pocket. It's not about that, it's about proving I'm good enough." And when he is no longer considered the underdog, will he really walk away from the sport?
The man known as "The Super Samoan" just smiles at the thought. We're not buying it and neither is he.
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