Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
While the first 'Rally for Mark Hunt' failed, the second edition proved to be a resounding success. Much to the delight of his "Army of Doom," Hunt replaced an injured Alistair Overeem against former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos as the co-main event of UFC 160. Though the journey wasn't as straightforward as the result.
Despite the "Super Samoan" immediately campaigning for the vacant shot at dos Santos, UFC President Dana White announced on Twitter that Hunt had turned the fight down. It wasn't until days later, after White posted an ominous tweet that described a positive phone conversation he had with Hunt, that the fight was officially booked.
"I had a few discrepancies about the way I was being treated and stuff," Hunt revealed when asked about his conversation with White on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"I just wasn't happy with some of the things that were getting done here. As an employee of a company, I shouldn't be treated the way I was being treated. I didn't think it was fair.
"Dana listened to what I had to say, which was pretty cool," Hunt continued. "I voiced my opinions about different things that I wasn't happy about, and now I'm [happy]. He said, ‘You know, I can't fix the problem if I don't what the problem is.' He's being pushed so many places because he's got a big company. But I said, you know, being the boss of the company should know what goes on. I was happy he listened and then he fixed the problem. It was good. He's a good person. He listened to what I had to say and sorted it out, so it was fine."
Hunt admitted that his unhappiness towards Zuffa wasn't anything new. It had existed for a long time -- "Since I was an employee of the UFC," he said -- and while Hunt wouldn't elaborate into too great of detail about any specific issue, he did show annoyance at his pre-prepared travel arrangements for UFC on FUEL 8.
"Look, man. One room, four guys," said Hunt. "Come on. Co-main event. You know, I can't get one more extra ticket? Come on now. It's like, you know, there's a 20,000 [seat] arena, and I can't get one more extra ticket. I've got four tickets.
"Is that not fair to you, or what?"
Hunt refused to go into further detail, though he emphasized that the issues, for the most part, have been resolved.
"I think I'm being treated more fairly than I was before," he explained.
"I've got the best opportunity so far of my career. I'm happy. I'm happy the discrepancies have been fixed. I'm in a better place. I never turned down any fight. I'm always up for the opportunity. For me, it's opportunities. It's not about all this other sort of jazz. For me it's about getting these opportunities, and very rarely do they come up. You've got to take them when they come."
The most surprising aspect of the entire strange saga was White announcement on Twitter that Hunt had rejected the UFC's offer to fight dos Santos.
Considering that Hunt personally campaigned for the dos Santos fight the night before, the claim made was understandably met by confusion. And not surprisingly, it didn't take long for Hunt to shoot down White's accusation.
"I'm not a liar," Hunt explained. "I'm a pretty straight up person. And I'd told the truth. What my thing is, I tell most of the time the truth, and sometimes it's good for me, sometimes it's bad. But, it's true. I don't turn down fights unless I'm injured. Never have. So it's a part of my makeup. Like I said, opportunities don't come that often, so you've got to take them when they come. I wasn't taking a dig at anyone. It was just the way I was voicing my opinion. That's the good thing about Twitter."
Luckily, all of the messy business is now behind Hunt. With the backstage drama settled, he has his fight. It's a position few expected the New Zealander would be in when the UFC reluctantly picked up his Pride FC contract years ago, but now that the reality has settled in, Hunt is up for the challenge.
His opponent, dos Santos, has trained extensively under the famed Nogueira brothers and holds a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Yuri Carlton. With nine years of BJJ practice under his belt, Hunt would be willing to take the fight to the ground, if that's what dos Santos prefers. Though in a perfect world, Hunt hopes the Brazilian looks to go toe-to-toe and give the fans a classic battle.
"He's like me," said Hunt. "He likes to stand there and bang. You know, I'd like to test his mettle. He was the best fighter in the world, and I consider myself the best fighter in the world. I class my striking really highly and so does he.
"Opportunities very rarely come, and as a fighter, fighting has come a second time around for me. I won the world title already as a K-1 fighter. I lost interest in fighting and then mixed martial arts came. And this is just another opportunity for me to prove, to be a part of the best fighters in the league. Junior was the world champion before he lost to Cain (Velasquez), and the opportunity is here. I'm so amped about it. I'm so pumped."
Throughout the video interview, Hunt's excitement was apparent. With a wide grin splashed across his face, the 37-year-old admitted he hasn't been this motivated since he fought Fedor Emelianenko for the Pride FC world title.
And while Hunt ultimately fell short against the Russian in 2006, this time he plans on exacting a different result.
"I can beat anybody," Hunt vowed.
"You want to fight, man? I'm your huckleberry, baby."
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