As a fan, I really want Mark Hunt to take home the interim title this weekend at UFC 180 in Mexico.

I love this “Rocky” style, journeyman narrative the 40-year-old New Zealander embodies and he’s just a compelling figure that is easy for MMA fans to love.

However, in a landscape that’s in desperate need of another big name star, Hunt just isn’t going to fit that description and he’s not the type of champion the promotion needs right now.

Before he was forced off this weekend’s card with another injury, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was poised to make a jump towards super-stardom himself.

The UFC has been doing their best to market the Mexican American fighter as a big name to watch, thanks in part to all of those Metro PCS commercials. But due to  inconsistent appearances inside the Octagon, he hasn’t been able to cultivate the type of fandom that Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor have carved out for themselves.

Now, Hunt’s opponent this weekend, Fabricio Werdum, isn’t a household name by any stretch. But he’s a legit contender in the MMA world and will automatically have the Brazilian fans behind him, thanks to his ethnicity.

Unfortunately for Hunt, he’s at the age where fighters start to seriously teeter off and he doesn’t have the marketing potential that either Velasquez or Werdum have. Should he go on to become the interim champ — or even the undisputed one – I doubt we’d see a huge jump in pay-per-view numbers if Hunt were to be a headliner.

MMA fans love Hunt, but the casual viewers will likely ask themselves, “Why is this fat guy fighting in the cage?”

What the UFC really needs is a heavyweight champ that has the KO skills of Hunt, but also the type of personality that is reminiscent of some of boxing’s past heavyweight stars. Not everyone needs to be a Mike Tyson outside of the ring, but in order for a fighter to become a star, they need to be able to connect with fans — whether audiences end up loving them or hating them.

The one thing Hunt has going for him is that he’s a finishing machine. His KOs are ridiculously fun to watch and really get at the primal, violent feelings every fan has boiling beneath the surface. As a co-headliner or as an opponent, he’s an excellent foil for potential crossover stars like Velasquez and Werdum.

It just sucks that Hunt will never see the type of stardom that he deserves. It sucks he’ll never be the champ that the fans deserve.

But in an MMA world where the number of views you get is more important than the number of wins you have, Hunt has an uphill battle ahead of him. And it might be a battle he can’t punch his way out of.

 

About The Author

Staff Writer

Matt Juul is loving college life as he pursues a career in journalism and cinema. A writer and pop culture fanatic, his interests and expertise range from arts and entertainment to the rough and tough world of mixed martial arts. Matt’s work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston.com, Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and the New Haven Register.

  • yo yo

    No time for doubters… This is rubbish