Mark Hunt goes from company outcast to top billing on biggest card in UFC history

By Nick Walshaw

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

Mark Hunt was shopping with family when news broke that Jon Jones had been outed from UFC 200.

His phone, however, was off.

Meaning that for some 20 minutes or more, the Sydney father-of-six had no idea he'd been catapulted up among the biggest headliners in Australian and New Zealand fight history.

Once offered $400,000 to quit the UFC, Hunt is now set to complete one of the country's greatest sporting resurrections with top billing against US megastar Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.

The shock move comes after Jones, who was to fight Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title, was sensationally stood last night down for a potential breach of the USADA doping policy.

In a hastily-organised press conference around 9pm, UFC drugs boss Jeff Novitzky - the same man who brought down disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong - read a statement revealing Jones had gone positive during an out-of-competition test on June 16.

UFC president Dana White then walked to the lectern, grabbed the microphone and said: Boom.

While White was still trying to find a replacement for Cormier late last night, he confirmed Hunt's fight with WWE Superstar Lesnar would be moved from co-main to top billing.

Ironically, in recent weeks Hunt has openly questioned Lesnar's use of PEDs, suggesting the professional wrestler was returning for this UFC cameo "juiced to the gills".

However, despite stringent testing in the fight four weeks ago since signing his contract, USADA has found no problem for the superstar heavyweight.

For Hunt, the shock top billing continues one of Australian sports' greatest comeback stories.

Back in March, White revealed to The Daily Telegraph how, shortly after acquiring the Minto heavyweight, he offered him US$300,000 to quit his contract - no small figure considering Hunt was on a losing streak stretching four years and five straight fights.

"We thought 300 grand was enough to make him go away," the president said.
It wasn't.

Instead, Hunt has not only regained his standing among the sport's elite heavyweights, but now fights Lesnar on a card that, before the Jones announcement, was tracking to become the most watched event in UFC history.

For Jones, however, the positive test continues an ugly run of outs for a fighter many felt was destined to become the greatest of all time.

While he has never tested positive PEDs, Jones did test pop for cocaine prior to a fight against Cormier in 2015. He was also suspended for seven months that same year after being involved in a hit-and-run accident.

While White was unable to provide detail on what exactly his star fighter had tested positive for, the president confirmed he could now be banned for two years should his B Sample also return a positive.

A shattered Cormier, dressed in a plain black T-shirt, also fronted the press last night to reveal his devastation at the situation.

Yet despite the pair before fierce arch rivals, Cormier refused to slam Jones saying: "I'm not the moral police".

The interim champion had actually been readying himself for a wrestling session when White texted to request a meeting.

Boom.

- news.com.au

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