Hunt-Class Destroyer: Interview with UFC Fighter Mark Hunt

Hunt-Class Destroyer: Interview with UFC Fighter Mark Hunt

These were just a few of the ways I felt on the way to the Oliver Mixed Martial Arts gym in Glen Eden. I’d been tasked with interviewing mixed martial artist, and former K1 World Champion, Mark Hunt. Auckland-raised Hunt has only ventured back to these shores to train for his February 25th bout against Cheick Kongo at UFC144 in Japan.

Beginning his fight career in kickboxing, The “Super Samoan” became WKBF Australian Super Heavyweight Champion in 1999. He followed this up by winning the K-1 Oceania belt, before finally capturing the K-1 World Grand Prix title in 2001. From there he transitioned into mixed martial arts, fighting under the Japanese Pride banner. His 2004 upset win over Wanderlei Silva sent shockwaves through the sport, which he followed up with a decision over MMA and fellow K-1 legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

Some losses later, albeit to guys who had such names as Josh Barnett, Fedor and Overeem, he found himself in the UFC where he has won two straight and awarded Knockout of the Night honours for starching Chris Tuchscherer at UFC127.

Long known for his granite chin and iron punch, Hunt will have his hands full with his latest opponent. The French Kongo also shares a kickboxing background and penchant for wars, and has 17 scalps in mixed martial arts. 

Q: Tell me a little about your history with the fight game. According to Wikipedia, this was something you kind of stumbled upon?

A: Well, you can’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia, that’s very bizarre! 

I started fighting here about 19 years ago, as a kickboxer in New Zealand, before I moved to Australia to continue fighting over there.

Q: Now, after your ride, you’re arguably the most accomplished mixed martial artist to come from these shores and have fought some the biggest names that the sport has produced. In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment?

A: To be still fighting at my age [laughs].

Q: As a fighter, you’re world renowned for being a big puncher with a huge chin. Tell me how it feels to land that knockout blow? 

A: It feels really great! Pretty good…..pretty great!

Q: Is it something you just know when you land it? With your stoppage against Chris Tuchscherer, you’d already turned away before his face could hit the deck!

A: Yeah, you just know. Sometimes you can just see these things

Q: You’ve also somehow managed to fight against some of the fiercest strikers in the sport. Who’s the hardest puncher you’ve ever faced?

A: I couldn’t tell you honestly, I’ve probably taken too many punches! 

There is not a single fighter or punch that I can recall, I’ve been hurt more by a succession of punches. They are all big guys, that whole heavyweight division is pretty tough and strong.

Q: Your career has been fairly resurgent of late. You’ve bounced back from a series of losses to win two in a row, has there been any changes in your training or was it a mindset thing?

A: It’s been a change of mindset. It was hard to lose so many times, and I was trying to change a few things up. I think every fighter goes through that phase of coming back from a hard loss. I just think it was a mental thing, and I’m glad I got over it. Now I’ve just got to set a positive mindset about winning. 

Q: I hear you’re in the new video game UFC Undisputed 3?

A: I didn’t even know until my friends told me and I was like “Oh wow!”

Q: Stylistically, you and Cheick (Kongo) have similar backgrounds, both durable kickboxers who like to wing hands. How do you see that fight going down?

A: I would like to keep the fight standing but I think he’ll want to take the fight to the ground. I don’t think anyone can stand up with me!

Q: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t fighting for a living?

A: I’d probably be in jail. [Before becoming a professional fighter] I was heading the wrong way with a lot of the people I was hanging with. It saved my life literally. Fighting also changed my mindset around about things, the way I look at things and the way I view people. 

Q: You’re now a seasoned campaigner, with proteges like James Te Huna coming through. How important is it for you to keep that South Pacific representation going in MMA?

A: It’s been hard for me being a pioneer from here, and trying to lead the way. When I was in K-1, I thought Ray (Sefo) and his team were going to help me, but I got no help. So now, when I’m back, I always try and help. It doesn’t cost anything to give advice. Advice is free. I’m always open to helping advance premier fighters from this area.

Q: Being a Samoan/New Zealander, is it important to represent those things on the world stage?

A: Yes, of course! I love being where I’m from, and a Polynesian. I am also proud of being a pioneer from this area and becoming a world champion! I didn’t get that much credit for it initially. Now I have another chance at being a world champion at a new sport (in MMA) and I’m really looking forward to it.

Q: Any advice for all the kids training to be the next MMA star?

A: I think, for myself and my career, self belief has always been a great thing for me. Then you can get anything you want, as long as you’re willing to go for it.

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