Mark Hunt enters the Saitama Super Arena for the 11th time as a fighter tonight.
The venue has seen many of the greatest moments in Japan’s storied history in combative sports. Among his appearances there, Hunt enjoyed epic MMA victories over Mirko Cro-Cop and Wanderlei Silva in PRIDE’s mid-2000’s New Years Eve mega-events. Even earlier, “The Super Samoan” battled to a grueling victory over the late Mike Bernardo in 2002 — back when the K-1 promotion was bringing kickboxing to the Japanese mainstream.
Hunt’s power-punching and granite chin have earned him 39 victories total. The New Zealand-born, Australia-based knockout artist’s accolades include victory at the K-1 World Grand Prix back in 2001.
But now, at 40 year of age, what does he have to prove?
Hunt recently signed a six bout contract with the UFC, and is said to be looking for one last shot at the UFC title.
In a recent interview by Dave Meltzer, Hunt said simply: “I’ve always thought I was the best fighter in the world.”
“I feel blessed by God,” Hunt said. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing in life. I never wanted to be a fighter. This is what God said I’m going to do, and I’m happy with that. The end is the same, if I win, lose or draw.”
Hunt is ranked #6 in the UFC heavyweight rankings. His opponent in Saitama, the #8-ranked Roy Nelson, is also known for his knockout power — but also has an extensive background in jiu-jitsu. It would seem Hunt would be at a considerable disadvantage on the ground against the American, but Hunt doesn’t seem worried about it.
“Coming from a standing background in striking, I couldn’t catch up to the guys with 20 plus years of training on the ground,” Hunt admits. “I had to learn submissions. I found out it wasn’t an easy road. I had six losses in a row, but I still felt I was the best fighter in the world.”
“If the fight goes to the ground, I don’t care. We’ll see what Roy’s got. We’re just going to battle.”