Mark Hunt's next fight has been confirmed and his trainer Steve Oliver believes if his charge can beat Roy Nelson in September he deserves a shot against UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
The Hunt and Nelson bout had been rumoured for weeks and the UFC made it official today and it will headline the UFC Fight Night 52 card at the Saitama Super Arena, near Tokyo in Japan on September 20.
Hunt is coming off an epic five-round draw against Antonio Silva in Brisbane in December where Hunt badly damaged his left hand and Silva later tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
The 40-year-old Hunt has made a full recovery though and a meeting with the big-punching Nelson, who also suffered a broken hand when he knocked out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in April, promises to be a tough battle.
Hunt is ranked eighth in the heavyweight division by the UFC with Nelson one spot down the pecking order.
Velasquez, who is coming off a shoulder injury, is due to meet No 1 contender Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180 in November and the 31-year-old has proven to be a dominant champion.
Hunt was on a four-fight winning streak before he was knocked out by former champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 in May last year.
But Oliver said Hunt (9-8-1) proved himself during his bout with Silva, a former title challenger himself, and should get a shot at the champion if he could stop Nelson.
"Surely he gets one eventually," Oliver told the Herald. "It's not just like he's starting out his career and I think the fans would love that fight.
"Hopefully we do a get shot sooner rather than later."
But before Hunt can worry about challenging for the gold, he will need to beat Nelson (20-9) who has tremendous power in his right hand and has one of the best chins in the division.
Hunt will feel at home in Japan though where he is hugely popular from his days in the now-defunct Pride promotion and his time on the K-1 kickboxing circuit where he is a former world champion.
"They love him over there," Oliver said. "And the main thing is Mark enjoys the atmosphere over there."
The Sydney-based Hunt will return to New Zealand during the next few days where he will meet with Oliver and plan his training camp as he looks to take down Nelson.