Thu, Oct 23, 3:54am by Mike Randall
After 24 years of fighting his way through opponent after opponent and combating his own personal demons, 40-year-old adopted Australian Mark Hunt was yesterday given a shot at the interim UFC Heavyweight Title belt.
Hunt was sensationally called up to take on No. 1 contender Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180 in Mexico on November 15 after Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez was forced to withdraw with a right knee injury, suffered during training.
With the champion on the rack, he’ll fight for the interim belt and, to celebrate, AustralianGambling.com.au has teamed up with BetEasy.com.au in floating a market on the New Zealand-born Super Samoan to get a chance at the undisputed belt.
Following an AustralianGambling.com.au inquiry, BetEasy organised an exclusive market on Hunt to get a chance to fight for the UFC Heavyweight title in 2015 (interim title not included).
BetEasy spokesman Rob Cumbrae-Stewart said the bookie was “very happy to have Australian Gambling on board as a partner.”
“We think Mark Hunt is the only Australian or New Zealand UFC fighter to stand a chance at getting a title fight and hence we have created the market,” Cumbrae-Stewart said.
“The market is saying at $4, he will get a shot at the title, but anything could unfold in the next 12 months.
“Whatever it is, we look forward to seeing how the former kickboxer will fair.”
With yesterday’s developments, the $4 looks very juicy odds on Hunt being able to deliver. If he can beat Werdum, he will surely become the number 1 contender and book himself a date with Velasquez next year, once he recovers.
Just a day before his big news, Hunt sat down with AustralianGambling.com.au for an exclusive interview about his remarkable life, his title chances and his planned autobiography, set to come out next year.
IF Mark Hunt’s confidence was anything to go by, the $4 BetEasy is offering about him getting a title shot in 2015 may as well be $1.01.
“I’m the best fighter on the planet,” Hunt told AustralianGambling.com.au with his trademark conviction.
“That’s the only way I look at it. I’ll fight anyone.
“I always felt like I’m the best fighter in the world, I might not have the power and I might have had a lot of setbacks and losses, but I’m not a quitter and winners never quit.”It might seem like front, but the 122 kg Sydney-based behemoth, who boasts a 10-8-1 record in the UFC against some of the best Mixed Martial Arts fighters in the world, has the skill in the octagon to back it up.
And he says he’s very close to a shot at the heavyweight title.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity to fight for (an interim) world title,” he told UFC.com.
“This is something that doesn’t happen often to people.
“First K1 and now UFC – how can I say no, even though it’s on short notice?
“I’m dropping everything and flying to Mexico tomorrow so I can best prepare myself for this fight.
“I have to get into shape and acclimatize to that environment, which is really important.
“There’s nothing to lose when you’re competing against the best at the top level.”
He’ll have to front up against Werdum first, the number one contender from Porto Alegre in Brazil.
“I’m ready for whatever comes,” Werdum said.
“I have been training in Mexico for nearly two months and accept the challenge that is presented to me.
“I’ll continue to prepare and will arrive ready to fight on behalf of all my Latin American fans.”
HUNT has said previously that this contract would be his last.
And, at this point, the 40 year old is sticking by that, but did leave an opening for himself to change his mind.
“At the moment, it’s been a hard slog to get to this point in my career,” he told AustralianGambling.com.au.
“I’ve been fighting for 24 years – it’s very tough.
“It’s been a long hard road, not just a battle inside the octagon or the ring, it’s been a battle, a war, out of the place.
“Who knows, I don’t know what the future holds, I just go with it, I take it as it comes I can’t really say how it’s going to work out.
“None of us are promised the next day, none of us are promised tomorrow, so I’ll go with it how it goes now.
“I might feel differently when things change but, right now, I can’t see myself having any more contracts.
“I’m just going to see this one out and see where we go from there.”
A win over Werdum might just be the catalyst for a change of heart.
Hunt is already the best known face in the UFC in Australia and his popularity has never been higher.
But it’s about to sky rocket, especially if he can knock over Werdum and ride the UFC’s wave of popularity Down Under.
He’s come from a tough upbringing and worked his way to the peak of his sport.
Aussies love a battler!
“Around these ways, I think people like to see someone that has overcome a hell of a lot to be where he is,” Hunt said.
“They like to see someone that hasn’t quit, he’s still going, (and) he’s one of the best fighters on the planet.
“I think that’s why people like Mark Hunt the fighter – he’s one of those guys you can’t get rid of.”
Hunt said he was excited to see the UFC back in Australia, where the number five ranked middleweight Luke Rockhold and the division’s elder statesman, Michael Bisping will take centre stage in Sydney on November 8.
“I’m excited to have UFC back at home and it would have been awesome if I could have competed in it, but it wasn’t meant to be,” he said.
“I would love to have (competed in Sydney) – everyone loves to perform in their own home.”
Hunt previously fired a shot at UFC knockers in Victoria and said the ban on cages was “stupid”.
Hunt has an infectious laugh and it was in full noise when he spoke about how he had been mistaken on social media for a marriage counsellor, several times.
“I’m always talking to my fans, but a lot of people who do message me on my fan page, they think I’m a marriage counsellor,” he laughed.“I’m not a counsellor – I can’t advise how to deal with your life and do all these things, for those that do send messages, thanks for the messages, but I cant help counselling your marriage or whatever it is.
“I’m a fighter, and I can’t say you should leave your husband or your wife, it’s not my job to do that.
“I can help with the fighting and help with trying to do good, but marriages and all those sorts of things, I cant really help with, so please don’t ask me questions.
“I need to go to school for counselling.”
On social media, he said he often had to deal with people who were less than complimentary.
“Always on social media, (there are) people always trying to handle me and I’m handling them back as well, those are those trolls,” he said.
Hunt revealed to AustralianGambling.com.au that he is in the early stages of writing a book about his extraordinary life.
“It’s coming out October next year,” he said.
“I was approached by an Australian publishing company and I’ve spoken with the ghost writer and we’re going to be starting soon, so good times.”
Growing up on the mean streets of Auckland, Hunt said he never wanted to be a fighter, but, on the path he was headed down, physical altercations were all too familiar.
And he says it was one of those physical altercations outside a night club that led him on a path to be a professional fighter.
“I got found outside a nightclub street fighting, so when the book comes out, it’s going to be a pretty crazy book,” he said.
“The Mark Hunt story is a really good story.
“It’s about a young, troubled kid that was lost.
“He came from nowhere, but the thing was, my life went from a negative to a positive – I didn’t use my upbringing as an excuse to go and do more bad things to society.
“I used it as fuel for myself to get out of whatever trouble it was (I was in).”
Hunt says he is now a Christian and believes God chose his path to the UFC.
“I give all glory to God,” he said.
“I believe that it was my path in life that God chose for me to go and do fighting because I never wanted to be a fighter.”
It’s Hunt’s wish that by telling his story, it will give other young people who have fallen off the tracks the inspiration to turn their lives around.
“My story is crazy – people don’t realise I’ve been in jail twice as a youth and as an adult as well, before I came to Australia,” he said.
“But I changed my life around, I could have been like the rest of the guys that did make those mistakes and still be in jail.
“I totally shy away from the bad stuff.
“I’m a family man. I’m a Christian man. I pay my taxes, I do all the right things and trying to stay on the right track.
“I’ve got kids to support and that’s all I’m doing.”
If Mark Hunt can do it, so can you.
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