The UFC has always prided itself on keeping its ear to the pulse of the fans. In the coming weeks, we're about to see just how far that dedication goes.
Following the announcement of Alistair Overeem's failed drug test, a new surprise candidate for UFC 146's title shot has emerged. Led by a burgeoning #RallyForMarkHunt crusade that shows no sign of slowing, former K-1 champion Mark Hunt and his ‘Army of Doom' have besieged the MMA community, bombing the social networks of Dana White, Lorenzo Feritta, and anyone else with a say in the UFC's decision making process, in the hopes of awarding "Super Samoan" a shot at the UFC heavyweight strap.
"That's what the army does. They terrorize," Hunt laughed on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It's an honor for me to have such loyal fans. It's great. I feel like I'm very appreciated."
Initially awarded a UFC fight against Sean McCorkle because of a unsettled contract formality, Hunt's entrance to the Octagon was less than glorious. But he has since thundered through a stunning three-fight win streak, which was violently punctuated by a first-round knockout over Cheick Kongo at UFC 144.
Now what was first just a pipe dream, has become a very real discussion, and Hunt is just as surprised as anybody.
"I think people like to see an underdog in there," he said with a chuckle. "I wasn't even wanted in the UFC, put it that way. And here we are talking about me having a title shot. Two years ago you'd have laughed at the thought. I think people like to see a good Rocky story."
While not knowing which opponent to prepare for would be an uncomfortable spot for most fighters, Hunt has never been much of a stickler for the details. And after hitting one of a largest waves of momentum and popularity of his professional career at the spry age of 38, he's having too much fun right now to not enjoy the ride.
So regardless of the outcome, Hunt is sure about one thing -- he's going to work on May 26, 2012. Whether it's against Junior dos Santos or Stefan Struve is irrelevant until those cage doors swing shut.
"I just train to make myself better. I don't really care about the opponent that I'm fighting," Hunt mused.
"I match-up good against anyone, so of course I feel like I match-up good against (dos Santos). The people that think I don't have a chance against anybody on this planet, they are certainly mistaken. But it's good to be underestimated. I like to be the underdog. (People say) I don't have a chance. That's great, it gives me more drive, more fire."
Not surprisingly, Hunt's easy-going outlook also extends to the subject that started this entire debate. As the conversation turns to Overeem's failed 14:1 drug test and the growing TRT discussion in MMA, the Samoan's words drip with a comical mixture of confidence and indifference.
"Honestly I don't give a damn if they're on drugs or not," Hunt proclaimed. "I'll knock their head off. At the end of the day, those steroids ain't going to help them when I hit them."
Of course Hunt, along with the rest of the UFC's heavyweight division, will likely be caught in limbo until Overeem's NSAC hearing can take place on April 24. But in the meantime, his message to his devoted network of supporters is simple.
"Thanks to the Army of Doom. Keeping bombing away."