Hunt in action both inside and outside the cage and opens as opera-sized underdog
Mark Hunt is a triple threat: martial artist, knock-out artist and an anti-bullshit artist. He has recently taken to social media lampooning ‘keyboard warriors’ everywhere and specifically individuals commenting on his posts with advice on fighting. In typical Hunt style he is pulling no punches.
On one level Hunt often shuns media and is notoriously a PR nightmare, however the level of support he has garnered suggests otherwise. In 2012 the calls for Hunt to fight in a title fight as a late replacement for Alistair Overeem were unprecedented for an unranked fighter. His three fight win streak was impressive, yet not compelling. During post-fight interviews Hunt had been monosyllabic. The UFC were left scratching their heads at the hardcore support Hunt had attracted.
Hunt is a throw-back to a different time, a real fighter, who at 40 is the most compelling story in MMA. The heavyweight division has seen this before in the career of Randy Couture, but Hunt’s al-naturale physique and reluctance to string more than two words together for the camera are in stark contrast to Couture. I recently heard a story that defines Hunt in my eyes and it is from the title run he made in 2001 at the K-1 Grand Prix.
In K-1 the quaterfinal match-ups were unique, because of a bizarre matchmaking ceremony. The 8 fighters would make the matches and Hunt, who had scrapped into the finals in Tokyo, actually choose to stand next to Jerome Le Banner when there were other spots available. By choosing to fight the top contender and man who had beaten him the year before Hunt wrote the first chapter of his storied career with one of the greatest knock-outs of all time.
As history shows in 2012 he did not get the title shot and suffered a knee injury. Since then Hunt has collected two walkaway knockouts and been involved in two Fight of the Night wars. The collective belief in Hunt has been vindicated by his performance and for his part Hunt has developed a more media friendly persona over the past two years.
Yet given all the above reasons the question occurs to almost everybody it seems, except Hunt, is why? Is self-belief that he ‘can knock anybody out’ enough to still be competing at the highest level of combat sports?
One thing we are not giving Hunt enough credit for is his intelligence both in the cage and outside it. His response to situations is unique and reflects a unique mind. He believes he is destined to fight for the world title and is one step closer with a chance to fight for the interim title on November 15/16 at UFC 180 against Fabricio Werdum. For this truly theatric moment the setting is Mexico City with Hunt again to be the opera-sized underdog.
To suggest MMA is a type of theatre is not to say the result is a fix or ‘a work’. The theatre of a combat sports event is similar to any sporting event, but the difference lies in transcendence. A fight can transfigure an audience in a revolutionary way, like a piece of controversial art. Hunt appears to possess some kind of magic that draws the audience and other fighters into masterpieces that are destined to be replayed down the ages.
Add to this his manner and complete lack of pomp and ceremony and you have a hero for an everyperson population who feels oppressed and without representation. MMA as a dialogue with society presents an alternative, a free form expression to sooth our collectively troubled soul. Visceral realism and the gamut of human emotions are framed by the cage. It’s lack of mainstream support and leverage is probably a temporary issue, but the path of a martial artist and fighter is lonely and often the road less travelled. For Hunt, he appears to be fighting a battle against the world, both literally and figuratively, to the heavyweight title and beyond!