Happy Birthday Mark Richard Hunt — A Tribute

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 30: Mark Hunt of New Zealand poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in event at Hilton Adelaide on November 30, 2018 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The Super Samoan

Mark ‘Super Samoan’ Hunt is revered for many impressive traits. His inspirational comeback during the latter portion of his fighting career is a perfect example of said qualities. Prior to his resurgence in the UFC, Hunt was known to be one of many fascinating characters from the golden age of Japanese combat sports. From unexpected title victories in K1 Kickboxing, to the ‘Atomic Butt Drop’ in mixed martial arts, Hunt certainly left his mark on one of the more exciting chapters between both sports. If the footage didn’t exist on platforms like UFC Fight Pass, one could even believe Hunt was a fictional character, whose existence only lived and spread through Japanese folklore. Perhaps some less-seasoned fight fans believe his story to be just that.

His Childhood

But even the most devoted MMA fans, who have watched all of Hunt’s competitive endeavors, could conceivably presume (or hope) the grizzliest facts from his childhood were embellished half-truths. His dad repeatedly molested his older sister. He also had an older brother who suffered from schizophrenia and ultimately wound up homeless during his teen years. This represents only a fraction of his developmental struggle. The severity of the beatings he and his brothers endured from their father is undeniably horrific. Hunt describes this difficult portion of his life at length in his book, “Born to Fight.” He even attributes the physical abuse from his childhood as being a possible part of what makes him so durable in combat today.

Exceptional Durability

One legendary display of Hunt’s exceptional durability can be found in footage of a 2001 kickboxing tournament bout between Hunt and fellow Polynesian, Ray Sefo. After a wildly chaotic one and a half rounds, the two Polynesian power houses smiled at each other while taking turns landing punches. This wasn’t your typical exchange of strikes. These men were putting their hands down by their sides and goading each other to land undefended punches to each other’s jaws. The smile was a show of mutual respect. But the intentionally unguarded exchanges were those of two alphas who had met their match in terms of resilience—and they were enjoying it.

Enter the Fight Game

Hunt’s ascension into the fight game was an unlikely one. In fact, his battle with Sefo ended in a decision loss. This would eliminate him from the K1 World Grand Prix. But, due to damage sustained in the fight, Sefo was unable to continue to the next round. Stepping into Sefo’s place, Hunt went on to defeat Adam Watt via TKO, thus winning the tournament entirely.

Despite his limited experience, Hunt proved to excel in kickboxing. When he switched over to MMA, he had even less exposure. Sitting at a press conference before his MMA debut, Hunt was asked how much training he had on the ground. Hunt candidly replied “about eight hours.” Everybody in the room, including a 27-year-old Fedor Emelianenko, let out a big laugh. Though Hunt would be submitted by Olympic gold medalist in Judo Hidehiko Yoshida in his debut, he performed reasonably well for somebody with his experience level. Even more impressive, he went on to win his next five fights, including back-to-back victories over the likes of Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro-Cop.

Troubled Past

If one only knew Hunt from his time in the UFC, it would be quite easy to assume he had always been a quiet and humble family man. But Hunt has a checkered past. He admittedly once blew 20 grand at the slot machines while high on crystal meth. He even spent another 20 thousand on methamphetamine with the intention of becoming a dealer. This never came to fruition because he instead smoked all of it with some of his buddies. He has stolen cars, engaged in street fights, committed multiple forms of robbery, and did some time in jail. All of these sordid details would naturally make one wonder, how did a man with such a troubled past end up among the elite in two different combat sports?

One of the more obvious reasons for Hunt’s success is the fact that he naturally took to striking. His foray into fighting came when a night club bouncer witnessed an 18-year-old Hunt brawling with several men outside of a South Auckland night club. After pulling Hunt away from the chaos and hiding him indoors while law enforcement intervened, the bouncer asked if Hunt would like to compete in a Muay Thai bout. The fight was scheduled to take place in five days at the club they were standing in. With about as much training as Kimbo Slice when he debuted on Youtube, Hunt accepted the challenge. Street fighter or not, he won the contest in the second round via one-punch knockout.

Modern Times

Fast forward about 27 years to now, and Mark Hunt remains a dangerous power puncher. While competing in the UFC, he finished Chris Tuchscherer, Cheick Kongo, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva, Frank Mir, and Derrick Lewis all via strikes. He even flew to the high altitudes of Mexico City on three-weeks notice for an interim title fight against Fabricio Werdum. Though he ultimately lost via TKO, Hunt was able to knock Werdum on his butt with his astounding power early on in the fight. Like lava from a volcano, Hunt slowly moves forward with the power to eviscerate anything in his path.

Free Agency

It has been more than three months since the final fight on Mark Hunt’s UFC contract. Though Hunt is 45-years-old and coming off three consecutive losses, he finds himself entering free agency at a time when the offers are both competitive and bountiful.

Outside of the UFC, there’s Bellator, the PFL, RIZIN, One Championship, and many other promotions. Bellator’s heavyweight division is currently under development. At the very least, this should put Hunt on Scott Coker’s radar. Hunt holds a victory over the Bellator heavyweight number one contender, Cheick Kongo. Given the circumstances, Bellator could be a great new employer for Hunt. Then again, One Championship is in the process of developing their North American audience. With 18 fights under the Las Vegas-based UFC, Hunt is no stranger to American fight fans. He’s also well-known in Asia from his time in PRIDE and K1. Speaking of Asia, RIZIN seems to love bringing PRIDE legends back into the fold. And who could blame them? Stars from the PRIDE era are some of the most beloved fighters our sport has to offer. One could venture to say that there are more than likely numerous promotions who are interested in acquiring Hunt’s services.

Happy Birthday Mark Hunt

Whatever Mark Hunt decides to do next, his part in this crazy sport has been both entertaining and admirable. To this day, he refuses to be walked over by anyone — be it mixed martial artists, kick boxers, or rich promoters–without putting up one hell of a fight. Happy birthday, Mark Richard Hunt. Keep being you.

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