Mixed Martial Arts: 'Super Samoan' Mark Hunt on 'Fight of his Life' against UFC, Brock Lesnar

Long before Israel Adesanya, a 'Super Samoan' blazed a Kiwi trail that pathed the way for the current crop of local mixed martial arts stars.

Mark Hunt is a legend in Japan for his exploits in K1 kickboxing and the now-defunct Pride MMA organisation, while he also earned a shot at the UFC's interim heavyweight title in the latter stages of a storied career.

Hunt's life story is hard to believe, growing up in an abusive household in South Auckland, surviving the streets, then making his mark as one of the very best fighters of his era.

And despite his MMA retirement, the 47-year-old is now in the "biggest fight of his career" against his former employer and world's leading MMA promotion - the UFC.

Hunt and Lesnar fought in 2016 - Lesnar win by decision but the result was overturned
Hunt and Lesnar fought in 2016 - Lesnar win by decision but the result was overturned Photo credit: Getty Images

In January 2017, Hunt filed a lawsuit against the company, controversial president Dana White and former opponent Brock Lesnar.

The professional wrestling star-turned UFC champion was found to have failed multiple drug tests in the lead-up to his 2016 UFC 200 feature bout against Hunt.

Lesner was subsequently fined and suspended, and has never fought inside the Octagon again, and Hunt alleges White and the UFC knew about the failed drug tests, but allowed the fight to continue as advertised.

Hunt's case was dismissed by a US District Court in 2019, but he continued to fight and, last month, achieved a breakthrough.

The dismissal was overturned on appeal and Hunt's "fight for justice" is back on, with the New Zealand-born Australian resident insisting he’s prepared to go the distance.

"This is just getting started," Hunt tells Newshub. "This isn't about money or my financial benefit - that's bullshit.

"This is about me being willing to stand up for what I believe and doing the right thing - the fair thing.

"No turning back from here for me. This is just another fight - the hardest fight I've ever had - but I am determined to rid the business of these cheaters and I fight for equality for all fighters, present and future."

Hunt's journey so far is superbly chronicled in the documentary Mark Hunt: The Fight of his Life.

Based on the book of the same name, the film looks at Hunt's battle to escape his youth in South Auckland with his life intact and the setbacks - both in and out of the ring - he faced through his historic combat sports career.

Hunt hopes his story inspires many who face the same challenges and have made the same mistakes he did as a young man.

"No-one helped me [as a kid]," Hunt recalls. "I hated my life. 

"School was shit - I was the poorest kid at school and hung with some bad people, but I grew up fast and somehow I broke that cycle.

"So many of my friends from that era are dead or in prison - it makes me pretty emotional just saying these words to you.

"But to break that cycle of neglect, abuse and poverty, I just want kids to know you can do it."

UFC president Dana White
UFC president Dana White Photo credit: Getty Images

Hunt quickly points out that professional fighting was his answer, but it may not be the answer for thousands of others.

"There are ways to break the cycle. My way was fighting, but counselling can be a way out - get advice from people who care and give a shit about your livelihood.

"I made so many mistakes as a kid,- got in a lot of trouble, but I'm no longer ashamed, because I've talked to people about it. You can too - find your thing, find your support team and get the f**k out."

The documentary shows Hunt continued to find trouble throughout his career, spending a few stints in jail, while also beating drug addiction and an $18,000-a-day gambling habit.

Through it all, Hunt persevered, working his way to several main-event slots in the UFC, as one of the most popular heavyweights in the history of the company.

He insists his competitive days are far from over and has discovered a passion for boxing, after his showcase fight against former NRL star Paul Gallen last year.

Hunt and many pundits believe he won that fight, but regardless, he had fun and enjoyed the "no bullshit" of dealing with promoters who wanted the best for the talent.

"Man, I think I made more in that fight than I did in my last few UFC fights put together, but outside of the money, it was just a fun experience.

"Paul is a good dude - I beat his ass - but yeah, I want to fight him again and I want to box again. It's different, but I wish I had made that jump 10 years ago - who knows how good I could have been.

"But I'm still the best fighter in the world - that's my mentality. I would love to scrap again soon, but we will see how it plays out."

Mark Hunt: Fight Of His Life is playing at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Christchurch on November 17-18, and Dunedin on November 19 - go to nziff.co.nz for more information and to buy tickets.