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Mark Hunt opens up about rough fight week: ‘If anyone can do it, I can do it’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

MEXICO CITY -- Just days away from his unexpected heavyweight title challenge, Mark Hunt found himself in a dark place as the festivities of Mexico roared around him at Wednesday's UFC 180 open workouts. Gone were Hunt's usual broad smiles and jovial idiosyncrasies. Instead the man who stood before the Mexican faithful was a somber one, any semblance of enthusiasm for the biggest fight of his life replaced by an overarching sense of sadness.

As an omen, all of Hunt's brooding did little to bode well for his chances of defeating Fabricio Werdum in Saturday's main event, especially considering how profoundly the deck was already stacked against the "Super Samoan," who had just three weeks to not only adjust to the immense altitude of Mexico City, but also drop upwards of 40 pounds and grind himself into fight shape.

But fortunately Thursday brought a welcome change in demeanor for the fan-favorite. Hunt was once again his regular cheery self, cracking jokes throughout UFC 180 media day, leading the room in song whenever Werdum flipped on his favorite Mexican tune, and candidly reflecting on what was only the latest in a long line of hurdles he's had to overcome throughout his remarkable 16-year career.

"Yesterday, if you got the news I did, then you'd be freaking looking like I was," Hunt said. "I'm just getting over that jazz. It wasn't a good time, the 24 hours was hard. Mentally I wasn't good and I was talking to all the press, so I was screwed, I was effed.

"(But) my mind is strong. I had a bit of a hiccup yesterday but I think I'm through to the other side now," he added. "It's a hard hump to get over, but hopefully I'm through it. I'll be good. Of course, come fight night I'll be trying to get this belt."

Hunt declined to elaborate on the "personal stuff" which affected him so deeply, though he did acknowledge that a lifetime of overcoming adversity helped him over the night to regain his focus on the task at hand.

"I'm always putting positives in my head. I have to," Hunt said. "Everyone's talking negative stuff. I'm trying to put positive stuff into my head so I can keep (right). I've done it my whole life, as a kid, when people made fun of you, I put positive stuff in there to keep me going.

"My whole career's been an underdog's. I'm not supposed to be here. I won the world title in K-1 as a nobody. Of course I'm the underdog. Everyone is saying it. I mean, even these circumstances brings me there, but hey, man, it makes a good story. If anyone can do it, I can do it."

For now, putting the final touches on what has already been a dramatic weight cut remains Hunt's biggest obstacle. It's been the focus of Hunt's entire camp -- he hasn't done any sparring throughout -- and any thoughts or preparations for the fight have inevitably led back the idea that he needed to make weight first.

That being said, Hunt guaranteed on Thursday that making the heavyweight limit wouldn't be a problem, and that only he had roughly three kilos (or 6.6 pounds) left to lose over a 24-hour span.

"I was 123.5 this morning, so I'm nearly there," he explained.

"I haven't had any carbs for three weeks, so I'm hungry. When I have some carbs, I'll have the energy to think about my plan and my performance and my fighting. My plan ultimately is to go and hurt him. If you don't know, this is the hurt business. And we're pretty good at hurting people. My job is to go hurt Fabricio as much as I can, so he doesn't put a hurt on me. I'll make up a plan while I'm doing it."

Considering the weight cut, the altitude, the short notice nature of this fight, and the personal issues plaguing Hunt, it's no surprise that Werdum is being pegged as the overwhelming favorite to defeat Hunt and claim the UFC interim heavyweight title as his own.

But at 40 years old, Hunt has been in similar positions before, and more often than not he's proven the odds wrong. So even if history repeats itself, Hunt won't consider his work to be complete.

"[This is for] the No. 1 spot," Hunt said. "[Werdum] already had this. He was fighting Cain for this spot. He was fighting Cain for the world title until a couple days ago. This is my time to take his spot.

"(But) it's not a title. The only belt I want to put around this waist is the UFC champion's belt, and that's the one that Cain's got. So if I win on Saturday night, that won't be going around my waist. I'll be holding it (on my shoulder). The only belt I want around this waist is the championship belt, and Cain's got that belt."