It’s fair to say that the last 18 months of Mark Hunt’s career haven’t been filled with much joy. What was once a romantic Cinderella story has slowly transformed into a troublesome tale rife with frustration. It’s hard to believe that less than two years ago, Hunt was heading into a UFC 200 blockbuster bout with Brock Lesnar, all on the back of two 1st round knockout wins. Stylistically, there was no denying that Lesnar had some advantages but momentum was on ‘The Super Samoan’s side and the table was seemingly set for Hunt to score a win under the brightest lights imaginable.
As is now very much documented though, things didn't go as planned for Hunt and as the night came to a close, he was officially the decision loser. Not long after, it was revealed that Lesnar had failed a pre-fight drug test and this wasn't of much surprise to Hunt, who had publicized his suspicions before the first round had even begun. The fight’s result was officially altered but that understandably wasn't enough for the disgruntled Hunt and a lawsuit soon followed. A simmering tension between Hunt and the UFC brass had now come to a head but either way, the Heavyweight contender fought on.
In March 2017 he made his octagon return too, taking on old foe Alistair Overeem in a rematch of their brief 2008 bout. Hunt entered the cage looking relatively sharp and certainly had his moments but in the end, Overeem’s ability to dictate the action paid dividends as he closed the show with a violent clinch knee after pinning Hunt against the fence consistently. There is never any shame in being stopped by a fighter as fearsome as Overeem but the timing of this loss had made it all the more hurtful for Hunt, a man seemingly down on his luck.
A quick glance at the numbers on Hunt’s record would tell you a lot about the man behind them though and just as you’d expect, he soon bounced back. Fighting at home just three months after the disappointment opposite Overeem, Hunt took on a surging Derrick Lewis who entered the cage off the back of six straight wins. Though the momentum wasn't on his side coming in, Hunt’s poise and experience led him to victory as he impressively took Lewis into deep waters and eventually drowned him in the 4th round.
Another relatively quick turnaround seemed set for Hunt before some comments made about his own health got him pulled from the fight. Mentions of slurred speech and memory loss understandably concerned the UFC and as a result, Hunt had lost out on his upcoming headline bout. Unsurprisingly, this news only furthered Hunt’s grudge with the promotion and “another lawsuit” was quickly threatened. However, some successful medical tests soon got Hunt cleared once again and though the end had seemed just moments away, ‘The Super Samoan’ was now back in the saddle and intent on climbing the UFC’s quite stagnant Heavyweight ranks one more time.
That brings us to this weekend’s UFC 221 event as Hunt takes on rare division prospect Curtis Blaydes. From a profile perspective, this is a fight that doesn't do much for Hunt and considering his prior outing opposite champion Stipe Miocic, some would question the veteran’s motivation to keep fighting. I think in many ways though, that’s quite symbolic of Hunt’s whole career. From this point forward, he’ll often enter the cage with men looking to make their name off him and that’s nothing new. For Hunt it’s just another chance to get in and fight, something he’s done professionally for around two decades.
Hunt’s story isn’t over yet but I think it’s already clear that his legacy will be a unique one. The win-loss ratio on his MMA record likely doesn't encapsulate the genuine skill and ability that he’s shown in moments of his lengthy career. The former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion will never be cited as one of MMA’s most well-rounded stars but that doesn't alter his beloved penchant for wild brawls or his fame knack of walk-off knockouts. Through ups and downs Hunt has entertained fight fans for a very long time and now it’s simply a matter of the man ending his own journey, his own way.