Aussies taking notice of Kiwi fighter Mark Hunt

Mark Hunt. Photo/Getty
Mark Hunt. Photo/Getty

Mark Hunt has sold McDonald's in Japan and fought live for 80,000 people.

He's also been on Tokyo game shows, presented at the MTV Music awards and even has a range of plastic toy figurines.

And now, finally, Australia is catching on.

Despite existing anonymously in his adopted home for 20 years, the Auckland-born Hunt is finally set to go mainstream this Sunday when he fights WWE megastar Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.

Already, the Las Vegas bout is being backed to earn a pay-per-view audience above 1.6 million - a result that would make Hunt the most watched headliner in the company's history.

Here in Australia, PPV provider Main Event Australia is also tipping the event to challenge the biggest fights ever beamed into Australian loungerooms.

While unlikely to topple PPV King Anthony Mundine, Main Event commercial director Angus Pitt said UFC 200 was tracking to smash into the top five - where boxers Mundine and Danny Green have long dominated.

Indeed, while Hunt has a large cult following, even his 'Army of Doom' is dwarfed by the fan base of Lesnar - who returns to the Octagon after an absence nearing five years.


Of the 10 most watched fights in UFC history, Lesnar heads four. His bout against US grappler Frank Mir in 2009 still holding the PPV record of 1.6 million buys.

But as for wether Hunt was one of them?

"Ah, no," the Minto father-of-six cackled yesterday from his Las Vegas training base. "I've never watched one of Brock's fight.

"But I know people do. So while this fight isn't any good for my rankings, it's still good for me as a fighter. More people are going to know about me just by fighting Brock."

While Main Event doesn't release purchase figures, the 2006 bout between Mundine and Green is thought to have reached 150,000 buys.

Quizzed on how Hunt's latest challenge would rate Down Under, Pitt said: "We're expecting it to be one of our highest selling events ever.

"First, you're seeing Brock Lesnar come back into the UFC for this historic event. Then you combine that with the cult following of Hunt, and the high quality of the card itself ... you have all the elements of a significant PPV event."

Despite having long been regarded as one of the world's best MMA heavyweights - he earned $1 million as K1 champion in 2001 - Hunt has struggled to crack it with mainstream Aussie sports fans.

Overseas, however, he boasts a strong cult following.

In Japan, for example, Hunt has done TV commercials for Maccas, presented on MTV, even had his face plastered across everything from Tokyo billboards to playing cards.

And now he gets to fight Lesnar, undoubtedly the biggest draw in UFC history.

"And UFC numbers here in Australia have increased significantly since Brock's past fights," Pitt said. "It all means UFC 200 could definitely be one of our biggest of all time."

- news.com.au

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