Meet 'the hardest hitter in the world'

Mark Hunt has opened up on his approach to fighting in the UFC Octagon. Photo/Getty.
Mark Hunt has opened up on his approach to fighting in the UFC Octagon. Photo/Getty.

THEY say the 100m sprint is the glamour event of the Olympics because at some point in their life everyone on earth tries to run as fast as they can.

It might not be as blanket a rule - or as socially acceptable - but at one stage most men would have punched, or thought about punching, someone as hard as they could.

Along that line of thinking Mark Hunt is the Usain Bolt of mixed martial arts.

You may have heard someone talk about the devastating striking ability of the New Zealand-born, Australian-based heavyweight as the days tick down to his fight against Brock Lesnar at UFC 200.

If you haven't, here's a sample. Former UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub described Hunt as "the hardest hitter in the world". "If you made a list, he's number one," said Schaub, on Joe Rogan's podcast.

In the same conversation Rogan, the UFC commentator, nicknamed Hunt "Captain Concussion". "He hits like a f***ing asteroidal impact," Rogan said.

In the most primal of sports, Hunt is the most primal of competitors. He's built a legacy on turning off people's lights, from Roy Nelson - a walk-off right hand uppercut that is arguably the most impressive of Hunt's career - to "Bigfoot" Silva - the KO Hunt rates as his most satisfying - and most recently Frank Mir.

"This is the hurt business," Hunt says. "It's raw and it's real. There's no hiding. We don't pull no punches. We're here to f*** s*** up ... I'm going to f*** you up, before you f*** me up."

But how does this father-of-three who still dies his hair blonde to match the likeness of a character in a Japanese cartoon continue to do things in his sport no one else can at age 42? sat down with him at the Monte Carlo Hotel in Las Vegas to find out.


Hunt remembers the first time he ever put his hands on another man.

He was around 14 or 15 years old, living in New Zealand, and was standing with a friend when a streetfight erupted. "I stepped in for him and knocked the guy out," Hunt said.
In that moment, Hunt felt a sense of power surge through his body. "I hit him and he went to sleep and I was like, 'Wow'."

These days that thrill has worn off. "It just feels normal," Hunt said. "You know when it happens. You know when you hurt someone, (when) they're in trouble."

He shies away from watching highlight videos of his most savage shots, preferring to breakdown the wars like his five-round epic against Silva and the beatdown he suffered at the hands of current champion Stipe Miocic.

"You don't learn anything from quick knockouts," Hunt said. "I learn more about myself from hard fights. The Stipe fight, the Bigfoot fight, I learnt so much from those fights. Knocking someone out cold means you just caught them, that's all."


Hunt likes to refer to his fights as "playing punch face" and declares there is no secret to the way he'll approach Lesnar.

"Brock Lesnar (is a) former UFC champion (and been in) four world title fights. It does not matter for me," he told UFC Embedded. "I'm just going to punch him in the face until he doesn't get up. Punch him in the face, punch him in the face, punch him in the face and then punch him in the face a few more times. It's the simplest game plan ever."

But while the game plan is simple, the technique is far more complex. Take the changes Hunt was forced to make when he made the transition from kickboxing - where fighters wear padded boxing-style gloves - to MMA, where the gloves are far smaller.

"I was like, 'Wow, you've got to change your punch'," Hunt said.

Because of the reduced size of his gloves, Hunt noticed his fist would make contact a split second later. Having the end of his fingers free required him to focus on closing his fist at the right time. He also realised he didn't have to hit as hard.

"You have to turn down the power a bit so you have precision," he said.

Then there's the subtle movements and feints he throws in the Octagon to lead his opponent on to the knockout blow.

"When I'm fighting I'm trying to find a reaction. I try to make the guy move, I try to make him do things that I want him to do," Hunt said. "If he likes moving a certain way I try to set something up so I catch him if he moves that way."

It's not about just attempting to floor his rival in the first few seconds of the fight either. "It's not normally the first, second or even third punch you get him," Hunt said. "It's the fourth or fifth."


Hunt underplays the physical gifts he's been given, describing himself as "short and fat". But Rogan's description is a little more colourful.

"(He's) built like a fire hydrant," Rogan said. "He's only like 5'9" and has to cut weight to get down to 265 pounds (the heavyweight limit).

"He's got these legs that don't even look real. His knees look like you took 13 knees and glued them together. He's so thick. His bones, his head, he's just thick."

Hunt also plays down the size of his hands but they don't look like yours or mine. His fingers are like kranskys and his knuckles bear the scars of a man who truly believes he was born to fight.

"My hands aren't even that big," Hunt insists. "But you can see they're battle-torn from (the days) before the Octagon."


You'd think finding sparring partners would be difficult for the heaviest hitter on the planet but Hunt won't try to take your head off if you're good enough to provide him with some training.

"I don't really try and hurt my (sparring) partners," Hunt said. "It's me trying to survive in training, to be honest. There's a lot of guys I'm sparring with that are young. And there's a fresh guy every time. So it's hard work. I don't try to hurt them."

Sometimes he can get a bit carried away. In his final sparring session before his most recent fight against Mir, Hunt got "a bit too stupid" and was on the receiving end of a blow which broke his nose.

He's learnt his lesson. "You don't learn anything from knocking each other's head off," he said.


All the striking ability in the world is useless if you don't have the ability to take a punch - and fight on when the chips are down.

And amazing as Hunt's right hand is, his chin is arguably just as impressive. Asked what would have the upper hand if he punched himself in the face, Hunt replied: "I don't know man, I think probably my chin."

But then in a perfect moment of introspection he revealed perhaps the biggest reason behind his success. "I actually think it's my fighting spirit that lasts the longest," Hunt said.

"I give my life. If I'm going to die in there that's fine," he added. "Like the Stipe fight - I f***ed up (his weight cut) and I paid for it. (But) I was not tapping out. I'm staying in there as long as I can.

"I call myself a modern day gladiator. In the old days they lost limbs and they died. At least I still get to walk home sometimes, if I'm not too f***ed up."


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