We met up with Mark ‘The Super Samoan’ Hunt to chat about his life in and outside of the Octagon. Known as the ‘walk-off king’ and dubbed by some as the hardest hitter in the world, Hunt has become an Ultimate Fighting Championship sensation for his powerful striking ability. After three successive victories, all by devastating knock-out, Hunt will be one to watch this year as he aims to take out the heavy weight title. At 42 years old, if he achieves this incredible feat, he will be the first Oceanic UFC title holder.
How did you start fighting?
Mark Hunt: I was in altercation outside a night club when I was 18 and the bouncer saved me from being arrested [He’s being modest, he knocked out multiple people]. My first fight was four days later in a Muay Thai boxing ring. [Before then] I was just partying but then the bouncer saved me, and well, as they say - the rest is history.
What would you be doing if you weren’t fighting?
I would probably be back in jail. I’ve been in jail twice and I can’t hide this – it’s in my book – the book’s out already and I’ve spoken pretty freely about everything. I was on a bad path as a kid and fighting actually saved my life. It took me away from being such an angry kid, an angry teenager, to someone who moved away from all that – because confrontation is what I do, words exchange and that’s what I do – I fight for a living. I had no education, I had my second stint in jail at 21 – I was going back there for sure. I already had the gangs try to sign me up. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but it helped me change my ways.
How did you get the nickname ‘Super Samoan’?
I’m a big gamer and big cartoon fan and I spent about 10 years fighting in Japan and there’s a program called Dragon Ball Z that I used to watch, in which some of the characters are called Super Saiyans. I was nicknamed the Samoan Monster over in Japan, but they started nicknaming me Super Samoan because of my heritage and because I used to love watching that cartoon. When the Super Saiyans would fight, their hair would go white and they would charge up and get super powers – that’s my little gimmick.
Speaking to someone who has never been inside a ring, can you explain to me what it’s like to step inside the cage and fight?
I feel free in the Octagon, I don’t have any hassles in my mind, I don’t worry about anything I have to do but work. I probably couldn’t get into a race car and drive around a track as quick as some of those guys, or ride a horse, but there’s people who are made to do that – just like I’m made to fight. I feel that God has blessed me with the gift to fight, to take punishment – which is pretty much what I’m good at. It’s kind of a funny thing to say that, but that’s just the way it is.
How does your faith influence your fighting?
A lot, of course. God doesn’t make mistakes. He made my parents the way they were towards me so that I am the man I am now. People laugh about it, but that’s just the way I see it. I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me, regardless. I’m just doing what I’m doing and living my life the best I can.
No man can close the doors that God has opened for me. Especially with the company I work in. The UFC was a company in which I wasn’t even wanted. Now seven or eight years on, I’m talking to Dana [Dana White, president of the UFC] about a new contract just this morning – go figure that one out.
Speaking of which, you were offered $450,000 by Dana White to retire. What kept you around?
It’s not a question you should ask me, it’s a question you should ask Dana. Ask him – he’ll tell you [laughs].
What do you say to people who want to get into fighting?
I’ve been fighting for 20 years at the top of two different sports – first at kickboxing and now mixed martial arts. What you must understand first: Is it something that you want to do? Something you need to do? Do you feel like it’s part of your life? Because the circle does not go into the square. It’s like Mr. Miyagi said: "You either do or you don’t – there is no try". You don’t think whether you’re going to throw a punch or a kick, you just do it or you’re going to get hurt. This is the hurt business, so you’ll get hurt if you’re in half a mind about it.
What do you think about retirement?
I’ve had the most punches in the head in UFC history – but look at me , I’m still talking to you well. I may not be able to remember a lot of shit [laughs], but I love fighting. I still love competing and getting that rush. I feel I’m getting better, like I said, I was just talking to Dana this morning about finishing my career with them and a new contract. I think I’ll be the world champion at the end of this year – I think I’ll be the best fighter on the planet again.
Frank Mir recently said that you were the hardest hitter in the UFC. That must feel good.
I think it’s probably because he didn’t see it coming; It’s the ones you don’t see coming are the ones that get you. He was too busy ducking his head the other way. It’s the same for him, had he caught me doing something wrong, he would have snapped it off without even a second thought. So I got him before he got me [laughs] – kudos to that.
THERE’S NO WAY NONE OF THOSE GUYS WOULD BEAT ME. IF WE HAVE A REMATCH, THEY’RE ALL GOING TO GET KNOCKED OUT.
You’re known as 'the walk-off king'. Why don’t you jump on your opponents when they hit the ground?
To be honest, I could see Frank was done. It’s like when I hit Struve – I knew he was done. He had a broken jaw – I didn’t know that – but I knew that he was done and had I gone back for him again, he would have had no jaw. I know it’s the hurt business, but when he’s done, he’s done.
How do you know when someone is ‘done’?
If I hit someone who’s not trying to grab me and drag me down – he’s done. When I hit someone and they’re just staring off into the distance – like when I hit Frank, I moved to the side and he was still looking forward, and that was it. I was just staring at him as I was walking to the side and thinking, "Is he out? – yeah, he’s out", then I walked off.
In 2014, you accepted an interim title fight on short notice and dominated, but ended up losing. Do you regret not jumping on Fabricio Werdum to finish the job?
No, I don’t regret it: I made a decision not to jump on him. Sometimes he’s kind of crafty, trying to bait you into his grappling game – that’s how he does it. He wasn’t in a dazed state, he was just baiting me down to try and jump into his guard and start wrapping me up and I didn’t want go there – that’s his world. He caught me fair and square, but if we fought again, there’s no way he’d beat me. There’s no way none of those guys would beat me. If we have a rematch, they’re all going to get knocked out.
MY BROTHER KILLED HIMSELF JUST UNDER A YEAR AGO BECAUSE HE WAS SO DEPRESSED. BUT IF YOU REACH OUT – THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE TO GIVE YOU A HAND, DOESN’T MATTER WHAT SITUATION IT IS.
Heavy Weight Champion Mark Hunt has a pretty nice ring to it. How long has it been your dream to be number one in the UFC?
Ever since I wasn’t wanted [laughs]. You can’t tell me I’m not good enough – I was told that my whole life as a kid. What’s really annoying is that he’s [Dana White] telling the whole world this: that I'm a shit fighter and I'm not worth it. I don’t blame him because of my record at the time – I had lost five in a row and I don’t think anyone wanted me. I mean, that’ll get anyone’s fire back if someone tells you you’re not good enough – "Who are you to tell me I’m not good enough? I’m one of the best fighters in the world, y’know? I’ve got raw blood here – what do you mean I’m not good enough? (laughs)." That’s how I got my fire back and I thank Dana for doubting me, because I’m nearly there.
What’s the next move for Mark Hunt? What’s in store for life after fighting?
We are starting a thing called MMA Academy. What happens is that only 2-5 per cent of the top fighters ever make a living out of it, but the others fall by the wayside. With MMA Academy, we want to bring a program that teaches personal training or nutrition and help fighters get diplomas that they can use to build themselves so that they can work in other areas of fighting – like management or sports. Not everyone can be a prize fighter, and just in case you don’t make it, here’s something you can work towards.
You recently released a biography, Born to Fight, detailing the story of your life. You had some pretty difficult moments. What advice would you have for people going through hard times?
I didn't release Born to Fight for money. My publisher got me to agree by telling me: "You can help other with their journey – doesn’t matter their background." People can read this book and understand that they can help themselves. Their struggles in life aren’t as bad as they think. My struggles, I never thought were bad, but I knew they were kind of crazy. But then I met Deng [friend of Hunt’s from Africa] and I listened to his story and I was like "holy shit – this is crazy." I sat back and I appreciated some of the stuff I’ve gone through and how little it was compared to some of the stuff he’d been through. People can read the book and realise that life isn’t really that bad at all. They’ve got food in their stomach, roof over their heads – or they’re at least working towards it. At least being born on this side of the world is an opportunity for them to help themselves. In a country where Deng was from, they were fighting a war with AK’s when they were kids! Go figure – he thought it was normal. And you thought your life was bad! Sometimes you got to suck it up and take steps to make your life better somehow.
There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t matter how bad it gets. Some people take the route of killing themselves when they have depression. My brother killed himself just under a year ago because he was so depressed. But if you reach out – there’s always someone to give you a hand, doesn’t matter what situation it is. If you need help, there’s always someone to help you.