In sports, the greatest stories are those of an underdog coming out on top or a great and unexpected turnaround. Mixed martial arts has that underdog and unexpected turnaround story all rolled into one. That story has become one of the greatest in the past five years, and that is the story of Mark Hunt.

Hunt’s contract was one of the numerous group that Zuffa inherited when they bought out the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships. Hunt was on a slide when that promotion shut its doors. He was on a five-fight losing streak and only had a professional record of five wins and six losses.

Understandably, the UFC tried to find a way out of having him fight for its promotion. The UFC offered Hunt a buyout of his contract. Hunt could have taken the money that he would have received for the final two fights on his deal and just went on his way. Hunt refused.

He decided that he wanted to fight in the world’s largest promotion, and the UFC gave him that wish when he fought Sean McCorkle at UFC 119 in September of 2010.

That night did not end well for Hunt. He was submitted just over a minute into the first round. Many expected Hunt to be cut after that, but he was given one last chance. That was when his huge turnaround began.

In his adopted home country of Australia, Hunt knocked out Chris Tuchscherer and earned himself a new contract with the UFC. He went on a tear after that, winning a total of four fights in a row culminating when he knocked out Stefan Struve and broke Struve’s jaw earlier this year in Japan.

Hunt had arrived at that point. He had gone from a man on a six-fight losing streak to a man who held the longest current winning streak inside the UFC’s heavyweight division. Big opportunities were sure to come his way, and they did when injury forced Alistair Overeem out of a scheduled bout with Junior dos Santos in May. The fans on Twitter begged UFC President Dana White to give that slot, in what was a likely title eliminator, to Hunt. White obliged, and Hunt had the chance to come full circle and shock the world. However, he lost that fight by knockout in the third round. It didn’t really slow down his momentum, though.

In that fight, Hunt showed that he could go toe to toe with the man widely regarded as the second-best heavyweight in the world. The bout was infinitely exciting because it felt like it could end at any moment. Hunt showed that he had improved from a man who was just a kickboxing world champion. He had fully evolved into a mixed martial artist with great takedown and submission defense.

Hunt sits right on the outskirts of the top 10 of the UFC’s heavyweight rankings and has a huge chance to get right back into title contention this Friday night. Hunt, a man who the UFC wanted to pay to go away, now is fighting in the main event of a card in his adopted home of Australia against another top-five opponent. He is facing Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, a former training partner whose last fight was a title shot against Cain Velasquez. If Hunt can beat Bigfoot in spectacular fashion, he will instantly vault up the rankings and be in contention for that elusive title shot.

Hunt is in that slot because of how great of a story and character he is. As promotion for this fight with Silva, the UFC has even been airing a documentary on Fox Sports 1 and 2 that follows Hunt leading up to his fight with Stefan Struve.

It is entirely plausible that if Hunt wins this bout, he could face the winner of the upcoming Travis Browne and Josh Barnett fight or Stipe Miocic and Gabriel Gonzaga match-up. Two wins against top-five competition could certainly warrant a title shot that hardcore fans would drool over.

Hunt might not look, act or talk like the baddest man on the planet. Hell, his record even begs to differ with his status as such a man. But, when you watch Hunt inside the Octagon, you realize he is among the baddest men walking on planet Earth. That says a lot for a man who refused to walk away and chose to fight instead. Regardless of whether Hunt ever gets that title shot or becomes the UFC champion, he has come further than anyone ever believed he could and that makes him MMA’s greatest underdog.

Photo: Mark Hunt (Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog)

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.