MMA: Hunt not feeling the love

By Daniel Richardson

Mixed martial arts fighter Mark Hunt is the latest Kiwi to be tagged as an Australian but insists his loyalty remains with New Zealand. Photo / UFC
Mixed martial arts fighter Mark Hunt is the latest Kiwi to be tagged as an Australian but insists his loyalty remains with New Zealand. Photo / UFC

Mixed martial arts fighter Mark Hunt is the latest Kiwi to be tagged as an Australian but insists his loyalty remains with New Zealand.

In a recently-released promotional poster for his upcoming bout against Brazilian Antonio `Bigfoot' Silva at UFC Fight Night 33 in Brisbane on December 7, Hunt is shown in front of an Australian flag.

The image sparked heated debate online about Hunt's allegiance and he attempted to clarify his stance on his Facebook page this week.

It's possible the UFC would have wanted to push Hunt with the Australian flag to make the event more marketable across the Tasman.

Hunt said he didn't have a problem representing the Australian flag but insisted he would continue to be classed as a New Zealand fighter.

The Kiwi-born 39-year-old has lived in Australia for around 20 years and his wife, Julie, and their three children are all Aussies but he regularly comes back to New Zealand for his training camps where he works under Steve Oliver.

Hunt, who is 9-8 in his MMA career and won the K-1 world grand prix kickboxing title in 2001, is currently in Auckland preparing for his fight with Silva and said he felt a lack of recognition in New Zealand for his achievements.

``I'm always going to be a New Zealand fighter,'' Hunt told the Herald. ``I'm a Kiwi of course and I've still got my New Zealand passport.''

So what was the best way to describe him for his next fight? A Kiwi representing Australia?

``Well I don't know. You can describe it with whatever you like. I said it was OK. The UFC asked [about the Australian flag] and I said `well that's cool, you can do it that way because Mark Hunt doesn't get any love from New Zealand'.

``It's one of those things, it's hard to explain. I've been representing New Zealand for such a long time and still [the media] have given me no acknowledgement of my accomplishments. Not only that but my sport in general, both sports actually. So when I was asked to do it I said `well, I do live in Australia now'. But I'm sick of knocking on the door here, you guys never let me in so it was one of those things.''

Hunt was particularly disappointed with a television interview he was asked to do last week when he was a guest at Joseph Parker's boxing fight against Afa Tatupu, where Parker won the New Zealand National Boxing Federation heavyweight title with a second round knockout.

``Joseph gave me a ticket to the fight. I just went to support him but the sad thing about it is I'm explaining to people who I am and what I do and I'm at a beginners boxing event,'' Hunt said.

There's little to deny Hunt is a pioneer for combat sports athletes from New Zealand.

Born in South Auckland, Hunt endured a rough upbringing but found his way in to fighting after an altercation outside an Auckland bar when he was in his teens.

His K-1 and MMA exploits made him a rockstar in Japan during the 2000s, while he is a huge drawcard in the UFC's heavyweight division, where he has been ranked inside the top 10, given his knockout power.

Hunt's fight with Silva, who is the No 4 contender in the heavyweight division, is the main event on the card in Brisbane.

Hunt lost his most recent bout in the UFC to Junior dos Santos in Las Vegas in May when he was knocked out in the third round but his brawl with the Brazilian earned him `fight of the night' honours.

Hunt made US$160,000 (NZD$190,737) for the fight against dos Santos and claimed a US$50,000 (NZD$59,617) bonus for his part in the fight of the night.

He has also won the `knockout of the night' prize twice in his past five fights in wins over Stefan Struve and Chris Tuchscherer.

- APNZ

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