UFC 1-Outs: Mark Hunt Speaks!

Headlining our UFC 1-Outs weekly segment is an interview between Mark Hunt and Ariel Helwani. First we need to note that Helwani is back in action covering the UFC after the UFC back-tracked on their 'banned for life' stance, as common sense prevailed. Helwani returned to his post and served up his regular MMA Hour show which featured Dominick Crus, Feder Emelianenko, Michael Bisping and of course the Super Samoan. 

So what did I learn form hearing Hunt speak with Helwani? A fair bit actually as it's rare for Hunt to speak with a journalist like Helwani, who is educated in the ways of the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts and not some sports journo from Australia or Aotearoa who has little knowledge of the topic they are covering.

And that's where my first take-away from this interview sits as Helwani and Hunt obviously share a good relationship, with Hunt apparently one of the first people to get in touch with Helwani after he was banned by the UFC. Hunt is a fun speaker to listen to because he doesn't follow the same mundane script that rugby players follow (Hunt and fighters in general), Hunt quickly turned Helwani's first question and jokingly asked Helwani how he was, after all the recent dramas etc.

Hunt showed compassion for Helwani and he also said 'shucks' at least three times, possibly more, I counted four times in about 20 minutes. That reinforced to me, that Hunt is the man, not only does he represent South Auckland, Samoa and Australia to the fullest by being an excessively ruthless athlete, he's also just a nice and wholesome dude. It doesn't get much better than that ... well it does.

Like Hunt playing tennis. Hunt had apparently just moved to Las Vegas, where he'll base himself in the lead-up to his UFC 200 fight against Brock Lesnar and Hunt highlighted the difficulties with the weather, specifically the heat and the different time-zone he had found himself in. Instead of hitting the gym asap, Hunt had played a bit of tennis to help him adjust to the new time-zone which is pretty incredible, I mean, just imagine Mark Hunt playing tennis.

Great to catch up with @sugarraysefo @xcmma

A photo posted by The Super Samoan (@markhuntfighter) on

There didn't appear to be much urgency from Hunt in searching for a gym to base his training camp at for what must be considered one of the biggest fights of his life (but not from his perspective, more from our perspective). Hunt said that fellow South Aucklander, Samoan and MMA veteran Ray Sefo had reached out to Hunt, to train at Xtreme Couture which is headed by Randy Couture. The interesting point here is that Couture lost to Lesnar back in 2008 at UFC 91 so there'd be some upside to working with Couture and picking up any little tips on Lesnar, even if it was from a while ago.

Whether it's Hunt playing tennis or Hunt not being overly concerned with a well-planned preparation for UFC 200 - which included Hunt joking that he just needed someone to hand him a bottle of water in his corner during the fight - I got the feeling that Hunt has learned a lot over the past year or two. Hunt is now always in shape to fight and this also backs up my view that Hunt is the perfect company man for the UFC as Hunt is always ready to fight and he doesn't care who he'll fight against, the gameplan is always the same and if Hunt hits you, you're gonna be asleep.

Being the perfect company man does mean being ready to fight at any time and that can be a bit annoying, which Hunt hinted at. Apparently Hunt was told to stay ready for a possible UFC 200 fight, he just wasn't told much more than that and Hunt being the business-first fighter that he is just followed orders. Hunt had a hunch that he could be in store to fight Lesnar, but said in this interview that he didn't find out until just before we all found out which is pretty damn crazy. 

The stylistic elements of this fight were discussed as well and it's pretty simple; Hunt's striking vs Lesnar's wrestling. Helwani did pose an interesting idea that I hadn't heard too much about before this and one that doesn't really bode well for Lesnar as apparently it is known that Lesnar doesn't like to get hit. Obviously Hunt hits extremely hard and Hunt had a chuckle at this, as you'd expect while Helwani also asked Hunt if he thought that his takedown defence was under-estimated.

The answer was a definitive yes and this only reinforces my excitement to not only see Hunt land a few shots on Lesnar's ugly mug, but also to see Hunt's takedown defence in action against Lesnar's strength. 

A few other Hunt gems from this included Hunt saying that his nephew had ripped the head and arms off his Lesnar doll/poster after Helwani asked Hunt if his kids knew of Lesnar through following Pro Wrestling - obviously they do, everyone knows Brock Lesnar! And Hunt also said that he was most excited to be in the US of A as he'd get to take his kids to Disneyland ... before or after the fight? After, after work.

Those of you who are silly to follow mainstream media for your sporting fix in Aotearoa would have seen some hooplah surrounding Hunt's pre-fight-hype comments in which Hunt ripped on Lesnar for using PED's or at least not having to be tested for them. Now, remember that we are observing the fight business here so anytime you see 'he said this' sort of headlines, you should probably just ignore them as fighters are their own promotional machines. 

Hunt also admitted that he had got a few details wrong about the PED testing program and he shouldn't be blamed for that as Lesnar sits in some murky waters given he had 'retired' and what. You might be able to pick up that I'm being very vague here and that's because I really don't care. It was cool that Hunt did say he got a detail wrong and we'll just leave it with Hunt offering a sensible line of thinking; 'if I'm getting tested, he should be tested as well' #EvenPlayingField.

I'm so fucking excited for this fight, as you should be. What I love though is that Hunt is immune to that excitement and this is all business for South Auckland's finest as Hunt believes that fighting/beating Lesnar doesn't do anything for his rankings or his hopes of sealing a heavyweight title shot. Sure, this is a huge fight because Hunt is fighting Lesnar at UFC 200 but Hunt oozes humility here and Hunt understands/said that all the fighters ranked ahead of him would say that Hunt has beaten them, that he's just beat Lesnar who has been out of the UFC for a few years and was sick.

That shows that while this is a huge fight, Hunt still has his eyes on that heavyweight title belt. 
There's a UFC Fight Night coming up this weekend, headlined by Rory MacDonald fighting Stephen 'Wonderboy' Thompson in MacDonald's Canada. I'll review that fight card early next week.