Mark Hunt, who fights Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva this Friday night (Saturday in Australia) in the main event of UFC Fight Night, was expecting a holiday after his loss to Junior Dos Santos. Instead, he was struck down with a nasty leg infection, spending several weeks in and out of the hospital. If you were following the “Super Samoan” on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know just how bad it was, as he shared photos and videos of the gaping hole in his leg. If you’re curious, those images are still floating around the internet, but they aren’t for the squeamish.
Hunt says the gruesome infection is behind him though and he is back in top condition.
“It's (recovery) been long but training's really good now, I'm in good shape, and I'm looking forward to the fight. Recovery's been good, training's been really hard and I'm just looking forward to getting to work.”
Hunt was valiant in defeat against Dos Santos in May at UFC 160. Despite being dropped in round one by a huge right hand from “Cigano,” Hunt still looked dangerous early, putting together some good combinations. However, former champion JDS began to dominate as the fight wore on, eventually finishing Hunt with a spinning hook kick in the last minute of the third round.
After the fight, Hunt revealed that he suffered a broken toe in the first round. However, he downplays the role that had in the fight’s outcome. > Watch: Mark Hunt - The Art of Fighting
“I lost the fight because I lost the fight. It felt like he changed gears in the second round and I couldn't keep up. I just couldn't change gears with him. So I was still in first gear and I sat in first gear trying to catch up, trying to play catch up footy but I just couldn't do it so I fell behind and got chopped up.”
Perennial underdog Hunt is once again facing one of the heavyweight division’s top fighters in #4 ranked “Bigfoot” Silva. It’s not a fight Hunt particularly wanted as both Hunt and Silva are members of Florida-based fight camp American Top Team (though Hunt has opted to prepare in New Zealand for his last few fights). Nevertheless, he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“We're not close friends but he's still one of the American Top Team guys. It's a fight I didn't want but that's not my job to make calls on who I'm fighting. It's a pretty good opportunity for myself. I'm thankful to have this opportunity, Bigfoot’s number four in the world so people are always going to say it's a step down for him to fight me, but I feel great to have this opportunity.”
Former K-1 kickboxing World Grand Prix Champion Hunt holds Silva in high esteem.
“We worked together but there was no animosity; he's a respectful guy and so am I, so I have a lot of respect for Antonio, he just does his work and so do I.”
Both men are powerful strikers, though on paper Bigfoot has the superior ground game. In response, the New Zealand-born Sydneysider Hunt is working all aspects of fighting in preparation for his Brazilian opponent.
“Just the same thing, working on the ground defenses, ground skills, wrestling, striking - just working on the whole lot.”
While the two have sparred together, Hunt will not be relying on anything learned in those sessions.
“I'm not gonna bank on that; it's a fight and anyone can win the fight, that's the way I look at it. It's one of those things, who would've thought JDS would've done a spinning hook kick to fix me up (laughs). You can't work a game plan for something that might not even work like that.”
Forever a Fighter
Hunt’s career turnaround has been inspirational. After lengthy periods of inactivity and failing to win a fight in almost five years, the Super Samoan strung together four wins and has re-established himself as a dangerous contender.
Fighting can be an unforgiving sport though. Hunt recently encountered one of his heroes: heavyweight boxer David Tua, a fellow Samoan from New Zealand. Tua, an elite boxer with a turbulent career, recently tried a comeback of his own. Hunt empathizes with Tua because he knows all too well what it’s like to be burned by the fight game. > Watch: Rhythm of Hunt
“David Tua's one of the pioneers of fighting; we all looked to David Tua as one of the pioneers for the Samoan community here in New Zealand. He's had a lot of things happen to him like I did, being cheated by management and everything, and it's a hard thing to watch someone (go through that) as a fighter, knowing what goes on. For him to go through that, where he's been, because you've been there already.”
David Tua’s comeback effort, though brave, was not as successful as Hunt’s. After a decision loss to Alexander Ustinov on November 16, Tua announced his retirement. At 39 years old, Hunt finds retirement hard to imagine.
“Well I don't know (when I will retire); it's hard for a fighter to give up fighting, I've spent my whole life fighting, I love fighting. For me to give it up, it's gonna be hard for me to walk away and say I can't do it anymore. But when God says it's time for me to move on, that's when I'll move on. It could be the next fight, who knows.” Hunt is a fighter to his core, and as he once put it, fighters aren’t normal.
"I'm not a 9-5 person, I don't want to go get a job (laughs). I just don’t think I'm a normal person to be doing all this. To put yourself through so much stress mentally, physically, it's like a drug for me, and when you come down from the whole scenario (it's hard)."
Whatever comes next, however, Hunt’s focus right now is on beating Bigfoot.
Mark Hunt: The Journey Continues
"I've spent my whole life fighting, I love fighting. For me to give it up, it's gonna be hard for me to walk away and say I can't do it anymore." - Mark Hunt