With over 70 professional fights to his name, Mark Hunt has been leading the way for combat sports in Australia and New Zealand for over two decades. At 43 years of age, Hunt will walk into the UFC’s Octagon for the 15th time when he takes on Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221 in Perth. With a little more than a week from his co-main event spot, Fight News Australia spoke to Mark Hunt about the fight game, changing media attitudes towards MMA, fighters to watch and much, much more.
Should the UFC be commended for trying to stamp out steroids?
I understand that, I commend them of course, but enforce your penalties, make them harsher, don’t say you’re doing it then don’t do it. I’ve been through a row of guys that are cheating and these guys have not been penalised harsh enough and it just keeps happening. Then what happens is people start calling me a whingeing lil bitch and I’m thinking, fuck, wait a minute, you’re talking to a guy that came through the era of Pride, where they were allowed to dope, what the fuck did I whinge fucking then?
You got to understand I’ve been through that era where these guys were allowed to dope. First thing I did when I signed with Pride was I said, ‘oh what’s the deal with the steroids in the community?’ and they all started laughing at me. A table of people laughing at me and I’m like, what the fuck are you laughing at?
Maybe I was a bit green and didn’t know, but you’re talking to a guy that has endured all these fucking steroid cheats through that era of Pride and I’ve come through this side here and I get the supposed cleanest promotion in the world, yet they are not enforcing their rules and then I get four in a row, come on. Who’s whinging here? I’m not whinging I’m just stating the facts and saying man do something the fuck about it.
On his most recent fight in Auckland and the change in attitude towards combat sports in New Zealand
I’m a Kiwi and It was good to go home and get a good reception because normally they look at fighting over there and mixed martial arts, it wasn’t classed as any good, it just wasn’t getting the support there. Even when I was the only K1 champion this side of the world. Regardless, the media played a big role in that.
I did a 60 Minutes gig a long time ago and they really shredded me. For twelve years that 60 Minutes bit really screwed my career.
They just made me out to be lazy and fat and that I didn’t train and it wasn’t even the case. I was doing a lot of things that other fighters weren’t even doing but it really ruined my sponsorships when I was just starting out. I was not getting any support. But It was good to receive the reception I got fighting in Auckland from all the people there it was good. The media is changing their outlook, we are not just a bunch of thugs it is mixed martial arts and one of the hardest sports in the world. It takes a lot of dedication and discipline to be one of the elite. I’ve been hanging around the top ten of the UFC for five years now. Fighting at the top end for many years. It’s great to see the sport grow and with the UFC helping it go mainstream. But now the UFC has got to clean up its doping policies and it will be great, I think everything is rolling in the right direction.
Why Hunt always trains away from Home
I go and train away because I have young kids and it’s hard to concentrate when you’ve got kids that young, they don’t understand that you’ve got to have rest. That’s why I go and train at other places, so it’s sort of like going back to being single and just concentrating on myself. The Gold Coast is one of the best places to train in the world, beaches there and everything and it’s only an hour plane ride from home so it’s good for me. So, I can work during the week and come home in the weekends.
Hunt’s thoughts on young people trying to make money in MMA and the opportunity the UFC provides them
The opportunity for these guys is priceless. But you can only fight for a certain amount of time before you have to actually get a real job if you haven’t made the top end. Only five percent of fighters who chase the dream actually make a good living of it. Others just fall by the way side.
You can’t fight for five thousand dollars, ten thousand, twenty thousand dollars forever. You got to think about reality because if you’re fighting for five or ten thousand dollars, half that straight away goes to taxes, half that straight away for camps. Then you got to pay for the rest of the stuff on top of that, so you’re not actually making a good living of it.
That’s the thing about it, you’re not really making a good living of it and you can’t do it forever because you’re not young forever. So you know, you’ve got to really consider your career path.
But with the UFC, they have made it so that everybody can make it.
If you’re good enough you can make that sort of coin and make a great living of it. There’s no reason why you can’t have all the Ferraris and everything you want, you just got to be good enough and have the right team around you to help. So, all these cats have got the opportunity. A lot of these young Kiwi and Aussie boys and girls because of people like Ronda Rousey, all the women’s and men’s champions, the UFC opens doors and they say here you go, here is your opportunity, if you are good enough we are coming to get you.
On Israel Adesanya and City Kickboxing in New Zealand
These guys are super talented, Izzy (Israel Adesanya) and Brad Riddell, all these cats at City Kickboxing, there are so many cats that are ahead of their time fighting wise. Not only has Izzy done well on the local scene, but he has done well internationally.
He’s already got good guys around him and he’s got good management and a good crew of guys to help him, so he’s already world class.
He’s going to do really well, Brad Riddell, the Vake brothers, they are all going to do really well. It’s just the doors have been opened, if you’re good enough come and take what’s yours and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it and stop your dreams. When they were ragging on me about doing this, here I still am, 27 years later as a pro fighter still doing it, you can’t tell me no different I’m not going to listen to you.
Why Hunt was so angry to get pulled from UFC Sydney
It was not nice to get pulled from the Sydney card. A few words taken out of context was what it was but you know, it just added six months to my contract. There’s nothing wrong with me clearly, I just want to compete. The key word they missed out on was sometimes. Sometimes probably when I just woke up or probably just finished doing a hard two hour session and then when you ask me a question I mumble like fuck off or something like that. A few sentences taken out of context, I’m fine.
But it has cost me a lot of money to do these two camps, you know the tax man still calls and he don’t give a fuck about your circumstance.
The reason I got personal at Dana is because that is just the way it is, you can’t play with someone’s livelihood and not get a backlash, I don’t care who you are.
On Tyson Pedro, Tai Tuivasa and his retirement
These guys are taking over. It’s good to have these guys, these guys are the young next generation fighters leading the way for the other young Aussies and Kiwis. I’m almost out, my gas tank’s almost empty and I’m just finishing my career at the end of the day. I’ve got three fights left with the UFC and I’ll probably fight three more times globally then I will probably retire. These guys (Pedro and Tuivasa) are going to lead the fight scene in the Oceania area so it’s good.
Hunt’s views on his Opponent at UFC 221, Curtis Blaydes
I don’t know him at all. He’s here for a reason, he has made the top 10 so you know he must be here for a reason but he is not going to get past me in Perth. I’m going to continue this journey and have two more fights but I give him all respect. I can’t say anything bad about him because he’s here.
On Blaydes calling him the ‘Michael Jordan of MMA’
Balling and punching people in the face are two different things, they are not the same thing (laughs). I understand the context of it but MJ was an icon, not just to his race and his generation but to entire generations. I wouldn’t class myself as being like Jordan of coarse, but we all strive for our own Michael Jordan status. But even to be considered like that is humbling for me and funny, but hey man I don’t think so.
On Joseph Parker’s heavyweight boxing unification fight with Anthony Joshua
I think it’s great (Joseph Parker v Anthony Joshua). I want to be going to that show. I think AJ is going to lose, I think Joseph will win for sure. I think Joseph can finish anyone, I think Joseph is one of the best boxers in the world and there is no doubt about it.
He has been sparing and competing with the best fighters in the world, I got his back for sure.
I want to go and watch that fight, I’ve just spent a lot of time away from home but hopefully I can go, we will just wait and see.