Mark Hunt: The Super Samoan
In an exclusive interview, the martial artist discusses the UFC, drug cheats within and his enduring fight career
by Finlay Macleay
image courtesy of Mark Hunt via Facebook
Mark Hunt is one of the most experienced martial artists of all time. Known for his knockout power and durability, he was previously signed with promotions such as K-1 and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, more commonly known as the UFC. Throughout his career, Hunt has faced the extremes of both prosperity and adversity. From becoming a world champion in 2001 to filing multiple lawsuits against the UFC in 2017, his abundance of experience allows him to provide a unique perspective on professional sports.
While discussing his own qualities, he promptly declared that his attitude is what allowed him to attain such longevity in martial arts, which he fought professionally in for over 20 years. During that time, he competed in over 70 professional bouts and holds the record for the most strikes received in a single UFC bout, 361 to be precise. Not a desirable record by any means, but it certainly stands testament to his gritty attitude.
Hunt also holds a rather zany interpretation of himself, saying “I feel I was born in the wrong era; I should’ve been born a slave gladiator and to die in battle would of been my ultimate prize, the ultimate high.” Despite that coming across as somewhat bizarre, when watching him in action, it isn’t difficult to believe that at the very least he would have fit in during Rome’s earlier days.
Although, it is perhaps his gladiator-like style that has caused his mixed success within in martial arts. Whilst standing, Hunt often finds devastating success. However, on the ground, the opposite is true as the vast majority of his losses come via submission, nor has he ever won via this method of victory.
When recalling the beginning of his mixed martial arts career, he says, “I had won the K-1 world title in 2001 and needed a new challenge.” He firstly signed with Pride Fighting Championships. Over the two years he spent with the promotion, he achieved victories over martial arts legends Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop. Then, after numerous other fights, Hunt eventually signed with the UFC in 2014. He was initially used as a journeyman who would act as a gatekeeper against fighters with potential to reach the upper ranks. However, after displaying exciting knockout power, he went on to headline several UFC events, including UFC 180.
During the latter half of his time with UFC, Hunt became known for more than just fighting after losing by unanimous decision to Brock Lesnar in 2016. Having been a cash cow for the UFC, Lesnar was making his anticipated return after four and a half years with Hunt as his opponent. Shortly after the bout, it was made apparent that Lesnar had tested positive for a banned estrogen blocker on two occasions. Now, after serving a disproportionately soft ban, Lesnar is likely to receive a title fight against current heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier despite his absence. While discussing this with Hunt, he said, “at this very moment it pays to use PEDs [performance enhancing drugs] and there isn’t any punishment. The UFC say they have the best testing policies, but they don’t stand by their own policies at all.”
Hunt then famously decided to take legal action against the UFC, filing five civil lawsuits. These included claims accusing the UFC of colluding with Lesnar regarding the use of the banned substances and delaying the announcement of the bout so to reduce the levels of said substances within Lesnar’s body. Yet just two months ago, many of Hunt’s claims were dismissed in court. Regarding the UFC and its handling of fighters, he said, “they actually promote cheaters, there isn’t any transparency at all and that is why there is many lawsuits against the UFC.”
He also discussed the biased treatment of UFC fighters saying, “I would change how they treat the cheaters of the MMA sport.” When looking at the punishments handed out by state commissions, there are blatant inconsistences. Nick Diaz, for example, received an initial five-year ban for the use of recreational substances. When compared to Lesnar’s one year for a performance enhancing drug, this is an obvious discrepancy. However, it must also be considered that the UFC is an organization worth a reported $7 billion. It is built upon fan favourite fighters that the public will pay to view, and this has consequently led to preferential treatment, as pointed out by Hunt, “it isn’t a sport and never has been. It has always been big business and money, it’s never been fair, especially to those that don’t use PEDs [performance enhancing drugs].”
Nevertheless, despite a bitter end to Hunt’s career, nothing can be taken away from him as a fighter. Having been an underdog for most of his career, he has accomplished more than many would have thought and has enjoyed doing so, saying “fighting is way more powerful than any drug, ask any fighter, there is nothing compared to top end prize fighting. The highs are so high, and the lows are so low. It’s euphoric as you walk out to do battle.”