Combat sports: Kiwi icon Mark Hunt in talks to make bareknuckle boxing debut

Mark Hunt.
Mark Hunt. Photo credit: Getty Images

Kiwi combat sports veteran Mark Hunt isn't ready to hang up his gloves just yet, but he is keen to remove them.

Only two months shy of his 50th birthday, the 'Super Samoan' is looking to add a new discipline to a career that's included kickboxing, Muay Thai, MMA and boxing, registering his interest for a move into the realm of bareknuckle boxing.

Hunt says he's currently in discussions with the bosses at the rising new sport's leading promotion BKFC regarding the possibility of a future fight.

"I'm keen on doing some bare-knuckle," Hunt told The MMA Hour. "I have been talking to the [BKFC] for a while ago, but we just didn't lock down a deal.  

"I had a lot of messages with the champ, [Mick] Terrill, maybe we can throw our hands together somewhere."

The former K1 world champion was a fixture at the pinnacle of MMA for 14 years, from its humble beginnings in the Japan-based pride promotion to the global behemoth the sport has become under the UFC.

His legal battles with the UFC mean it's unlikely Hunt will ever compete in MMA again and he's instead pivoted to boxing.

Hunt hasn't entered a ring since November 2022, when he earned a fourth-round TKO victory over cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams in Sydney.

Mark Hunt en route to victory against Sonny Bill Williams in 2022.
Mark Hunt en route to victory against Sonny Bill Williams in 2022. Photo credit: Getty Images

Prior to that bout came a loss to former Australian rugby league representative Paul Gallen, who bested him on points in 2020.

In recent years, Bareknuckle boxing has risen dramatically in popularity, despite being widely discredited by combat purists owing to its often savage nature.

BKFC has spearheaded that charge, attracting a host of former MMA stars to its ranks, including the likes of Mike Perry and John Dodson.

Hunt is eager to add his name to that list and would undoubtedly attract plenty of interest due to his reputation as a heavy hitter with an ultra aggressive approach to fighting.

The South Aucklander, who hinted at retirement after his win over Williams, says he understands the risks involved with bare knuckle combat – but he has to pay the bills.

"No one says fighting is good for anybody, you've got to be kind of tough to say fighting is good for you," Hunt continued.  

"But like I said, what it provides is financial stability. I don't fight because I love to, I fight because God has put me to be a fighter. It provides good money and that's what it is, it's an honest living. I'm not going to sit here and shit in your pants and say that I love doing it, it's just fighting, it is what it is.

"Growing up, I didn't know what I wanted to do in life, but God said, 'You are going to be a fighter' and that's what I've been doing with my whole life.  

"It's been over three decades... and I'm still going."

In September, Hunt's six-year battle with the UFC ended, when a federal judge in Nevada ruled he'd failed to prove that chief executive and president Dana White had booked his 2016 bout with former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar knowing the WWE star had been doping.

Hunt lost the fight but the result was later overturned to a no contest, after Lesnar tested positive for clomiphene.

Likely faced with some hefty courtroom costs as a result of his plight, Hunt has been working with BKFC boss David Feldman to try and lock in his next contest.

Ben Rothwell appears a readymade candidate, having shared the Octagon with Hunt back in 2011.

"Dave has actually messaged me about - we've been speaking about a fight," Hunt said. "Maybe in June we can sort something out, I'll be ready to throw hands.

"[Rothwell] is another fight I've been talking about. We locked horns in Denver, Colorado... that was a hard fight because if you don't get acclimatized to that air, he's struggling like I was.  

"That was a hard match, not because of the fight, but because of the altitude."

Hunt has even tested the waters with YouTube star turned boxer Jake Paul, taking to social media to sound him out on a potential fight.

"I always thought he was kind of small for it, but if he wants to throw hands, I'll throw hands with anyone, to be honest," he said. "That ain't a problem.

"I actually like what he's done. He's actually done a lot of good things for himself and for fighting. If he can sell out stadiums as being a YouTuber, so I have respect for that.  

"But as skill level goes, I don't think so, to be honest. But who knows what the future holds?"