Mark Hunt is ready to let go.
After suffering back-to-back losses in his two most recent bouts, the Kiwi MMA star knows his professional future does not lie in the UFC.
"To be honest it's not even on my radar," Hunt tells the Herald of re-signing with the promotion after his current contract ends.
Hunt was submitted in the first round of his bout against Russian Aleksei Oleinik earlier this month, which followed a unanimous decision loss to Curtis Blaydes in February. With one bout left on his contract, Hunt - who holds a 13-13-1 professional record with one no contest - says the recent losses have given him some persepective.
"I lost the last fight, who would want to give me another contract with the UFC? I certainly won't expect one."
Hunt debuted with the UFC in 2010, three years after the promotion's then-parent company Zuffa's absorbing of Japan's Pride Fighting Championship into the UFC.
Acquired as part of the Pride deal, the UFC offered to buy out Hunt's contract for $450,000.
"When we bought Pride, he came as part of the Pride deal," UFC boss Dana White said at a press conference in 2011. "It was back and forth and basically I was just like ... we'll just pay you off."
Hunt turned the offer down. Starting his MMA career with a 5-6 record in Pride and its successor promotion, Dream, after posting an impressive 30-13 record in kickboxing, he wanted to fight for his money.
"At the end of the day, I'm one of the greatest fighters on the planet," he says.
In September of 2010, Hunt got inside the UFC octagon for the first time – squaring off at UFC 119 against American Sean McCorkle.
The fight lasted a little over a minute. Hunt was caught in an armbar and forced to submit.
Unable to display his ability at first, Hunt soon unleashed his power and claimed impressive wins in his next four fights – three by way of knockout.
He quickly became known as the 'King of the Walk off'. When he knew he had landed a shot to end the fight, he made sure everyone else did too by heading back toward his corner before the referee had called an end to the bout.
Despite a rocky start in the UFC, by 2014 Hunt was fighting for the interim heavyweight title. He wasn't able to claim it, losing to Brazilian Fabricio Werdum in the second round, but the Australian-based Kiwi more than made his mark on the UFC, its fans and young MMA athletes in Australia and New Zealand.
Current UFC No 15 ranked light heavyweight Tyson Pedro credits Hunt as one of the big inspirations in his career.
"I've been watching him since I was a kid," the 27-year-old tells the Herald. "You look up to him as someone who's probably been in the game longer than anyone else."
Getting into the UFC initially wasn't the only issue Hunt had during his time in UFC. He and the company struggled to see eye to eye in contract negotiations in 2014 – eventually meeting in the middle of their respective wishes and agreeing on a six-fight deal – before a bout against Brock Lesnar in 2016 ultimately tarnished the relationship for good.
Lesnar beat Hunt by unanimous decision, but the decision was later overturned to a no contest with the American returning a positive result in pre-fight and in-competition doping tests. It resulted in Hunt taking Lesnar, the company and White to court for alleged racketeering, fraud, battery, and civil conspiracy, among other things. The case has yet to be resolved, but survived a motion to dismiss filed by the UFC in 2017.
"The situation with the company, it is what it is – that's how things turned out. It is what it is."
Now, after eight years with the company, the 44-year-old is happy to move on to the next phase of his career – after one more fight.
The UFC returns to Australia in December, with a fight night in Adelaide. With four fighters from the Oceania region already confirmed on the card, Hunt was hoping he'd have the chance to add to that number. There had been rumours of potential opponents for Hunt on the card, though the UFC were yet to have something confirmed.
Hunt says he plans to keep his options open after his next bout, whenever it may be, with plenty of avenues to look down in combat sports.
He won't rule out a move to boxing or kickboxing as opposed to continuing his MMA career, but there is one thing he is certain of.
"The UFC dream is gone. Now it's time for something bigger and better."