Kiwi MMA fighter Mark Hunt is set to return to the octagon to take on British-born Dutch mixed martial artist Alistair Overeem early next year.

The match-up is the first fight of the UFC 209 card to be announced by the US arm of ESPN for the March 5 Las Vegas event.

It will be Hunt's first fight since his controversial defeat to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 in July and victory would thrust him back into contention for a shot at current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic's title.

Hunt and Overeem, both former K1 world champions, have fought previously in the now-defunct Dream promotion in Japan in 2008 but never faced each other in the UFC.


Hunt, with a record of 12 wins, 10 defeats and one draw is currently ranked seventh, four places behind Overeem (41-15).

The 42-year-old will be hungry for revenge, after Overeem claimed a first round submission win in their initial bout.

"It's quite a significant match-up, just in terms of the heavyweight standings and who will likely get the next fight for the title," said a UFC spokesman.

"So it's a big return fight for Mark."

In September, Overeem faced Miocic for the heavyweight championship at UFC 203 but lost through a first-round knockout.

Hunt's fight return comes after he called for Lesnar to be stripped of all his earnings from their bout, after the former heavyweight champion and WWE convert failed a pair of post-fight drugs tests.

Hunt opted not to participate in two other bouts while demanding the UFC needed to take stronger action against fighters caught using performance enhancing drugs.

Hunt argued the UFC should add a clause to its contracts that would ensure any fighter that fails a drugs test would lose the total purse to the non-doping opponent.


Earlier this month, Lesnar was finally suspended for one year retroactive to the date of the fight, and was also fined US$250,000. The fight result will also be overturned, now being registered as a "no contest".

Failed drugs tests have also tarnished Overeem's reputation.

Rumours he used performance enhancing drugs dogged him during his time in Japan before the 36-year-old delivered a lopsided testosterone-to-epitestosterone level in the lead-up to a bout with then heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146 in 2012.

Overeem appealed the decision to suspend him and claimed the positive test was the result of a prescribed anti-inflammatory medication that was mixed with testosterone.

Despite his protests the Nevada State Athletic Commission ultimately voted to deny his application status for nine months.