While driving his children to school last week, Mark Hunt was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime. His daily routine was interrupted by a phone call from UFC president Dana White offering him an interim title shot after champion Cain Velasquez was forced out of his scheduled UFC 180 championship bout against Fabricio Werdum.
“I was taking the kids to school and I got a phone call from Dana and Lorenzo [Fertitta], and they asked me if I wanted to fight for the world title,” Hunt recently told UFC.com. “I probably said yes before I even answered.”
When Hunt arrived in the UFC in September 2010, it looked as if the Samoan’s fighting career was coming to an end. He had been defeated in his five previous fights. He lost his UFC debut to Sean McCorkle, extending his losing streak to six consecutive fights.
Heading into 2011, Hunt was going nowhere fast. But then everything change. He reeled off four straight wins, three by knockout, earning two Knockout of the Night bonuses. Hunt’s career had been resurrected from the ashes, and he was knocking on the door of a UFC title shot.
He faced former titleholder Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 and lost, but earned Fight of the Night honors. In his next outing, Hunt took on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in what became one of the greatest fights in UFC heavyweight history. The 2013 Fight of the Year candidate was tainted when Silva failed the post-fight drug test.
The biggest fight of Hunt’s career came on Sept. 20 when he faced heavy-handed Roy Nelson. He finished “Big Country” in the second round, becoming the first man to knockout The Ultimate Fighter 10 winner. He didn’t know it at the time, but the knockout earned him an interim title shot. After the win, Hunt returned to his New Zealand home thinking he wasn’t going to fight until 2015.
“I was looking at trying to get on the Sydney card (UFC Fight Night 55: Rockhold vs. Bisping). I eventually realized I wasn’t going to be on until next year,” said the 40-year-old. “I went into family mode and father mode and didn’t train at all.”
Now set to fight Werdum at UFC 180 on Nov. 15, Hunt’s focus is more on his weight than his opponent.
“All of my focus will be on this weight loss. I’ve got to lose a lot of kilos in a short amount of time,” he said.
Werdum is a jiu-jitsu specialist who possesses a well-rounded striking game, but Hunt expects the Brazilian to quickly try to get the fight to the ground.
“Eventually, fighters realize they can’t stand and bang with me and they try to take me down,” said Hunt. “Getting the No. 1 spot is always good. It puts me next in line for the world title. So, here we go.”