In a couple of weeks, Mark Hunt, his body still sore from his defeat to Alistair Overeem in UFC 209 this month, will go into camp on the Gold Coast for his next fight in Auckland.

Physically, this toughest of sports is getting harder for Hunt, who turned 43 last Thursday, but he told the Herald he hasn't got retirement on his mind.

The heavyweight said he ignores the calls from outside MMA that he is getting too old, but his final fight can't be far away. His last, a knockout defeat by Overeem, was close until the Dutchman caught him with a knee to the head and knocked him out in the third round.

It was a bout which must have taken a mental as well as physical toll, and Hunt was taken to hospital afterwards with a cut leg at first diagnosed as broken. After reviewing the X-ray, Hunt's doctor, perhaps earlier distracted by the dramatic entrance of a gunshot victim, said the leg in fact wasn't broken.


Hunt's next visit to the octagon will be at Vector Arena on Sunday, June 11, a bout against American Derrick 'The Black Beast' Lewis, which represents a first fight in the country of his birth for 16 years.

Hunt probably has three fights left in his career after this one - he signed a new six-fight deal with the UFC in April last year - but the old warrior who has been fighting all his life one way or another is likely to be defiant until the end.

"I feel like I could fight for ever, but it's hard training the body," Hunt told the Herald. "The mind's all right but not the body. Who knows? We'll see.

"There is a lot of talk about that - 'you're too old' or 'too fat'.

"I still feel I'm the best. I asked the guys [in camp after the Overeem defeat], 'was I outclassed out there? I don't think so'. The guys said, 'it was a pretty even fight up until you got caught'. If he was beating me up, then my thought processes would be 'maybe the game has changed ... and it has got the best of me'. But I thought it was a pretty good competition up until I got caught."

The Sydney-based Hunt, the boy from South Auckland who endured a hellish childhood, including frequent beatings from his father as described in his autobiography Born to Fight, continued on his theme when saying he had been knocked out only three times in his UFC career. There remains bitterness about how some of his opponents have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but his fighting spirit remains undimmed.

"All those guys who say 'quit, give it up', they don't know what they're talking about. I don't even listen to their rubbish. They can say whatever they like. We're talking about the elite fighters of the world.

"A lot of the fighters I have fought have been younger than me; younger and bigger. But I've still beaten them. I still have the dream of being the best MMA fighter in the world and that's what I'm still chasing."

Asked about his memories of his last fight in New Zealand in 2001, Hunt said: "The last time I fought there, I was out partying till 2am and I lost on points to Peter Graham. I made a lot of errors in my career."