SPORTS

After Bigfoot comes Big Country for Hunt as two heavyweights square off in Japan

09/18/2014 04:53 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:59 EDT
Amazingly Mark Hunt felt OK after his five-round war with Antonio (Bigfoot) Silva last time out.

Apart from the hand broken in two places, that is. Combine Silva's renowned teak-like noggin with 103 significant strikes and something has to give.

Not that Hunt, the 40-year-old heavyweight known as the Super Samoan, was complaining after the all-action fight was scored a majority draw.

"I didn't feel so bad," said Hunt. "It was a great fight, I did my job and I was happy."

The Australian-based New Zealander, ranked No. 6 among heavyweight contenders, takes on another big hitter in No. 8 Roy (Big Country) Nelson in the main event of a UFC event in Tokyo on Saturday.

Neither fighter will win a Mr. Universe title but both can pack a punch.

Hunt is a former K-1 champion who went on to fight in Pride and has become a fan favourite in the UFC for his punching power and never-say-die attitude. The 38-year-old Nelson is a former winner of "The Ultimate Fighter" who has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as a cannon for a right hand.

And both are coming off big performances: Hunt (9-8-1) against Silva and Nelson (21-9) with a TKO win over Antonio (Minotauro) Nogueira in April. Like Hunt, Nelson broke his hand in the bout.

Hunt and Silva earned the fight of the night bonus and kudos from UFC president Dana White for their Brisbane brawl.

"Both Hunt and Silva win FON and both get their win bonus and I might buy them both their own private ISLANDS!!!! Sickest HW fight ever!!!," White tweeted that night.

The UFC boss's enthusiasm was tempered later by news that the six-foot-four 264-pound Silva tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.

Hunt has been in the wars of late.

At at UFC 160 in May 2013, his last fight before Silva, he broke his toe and needed six stitches after a knockout loss to Junior Dos Santos. He was laid low after the fight when a bruise suffered during his training camp became infected.

"It's been kind of funny, one (fight) after the other," Hunt said of his ill luck. "But such is life, it's part of fighting."

Hunt appears to have issues of his own heading into the Nelson fight. Yahoo, quoting a UFC source, reported that the five-foot-10 Hunt weighed 284 pounds Thursday, meaning he would have to lose 19 pounds to make the heavyweight limit of 265 Friday for the Saitama Super Arena bout.

The card also includes a lightweight bout between No. 9 contender Myles (Fury) Jury and Takanori (The Fireball Kid) Gomi. Welterweight Amir Sadollah, winner of Season 7 of "The Ultimate Fighter," takes on veteran Yoshihiro (Sexyama) Akiyama in a battle of two fighters who have not been in the Octagon for more than two years

And second-ranked women's bantamweight Miesha (Cupcake) Tate faces Japan's Rin Nakai.

Hunt is no stranger to Saitama from his days in K-1 and Pride.

"I have good and bad memories fighting in Japan," he said. "I'm looking forward to going back to work and putting on a good show for the people that pay their money to come and watch me fight. I'm going to try to move closer to that title shot."

Hunt calls his combat sports abilities "a gift from God."

"I never wanted to be a fighter," he said. "I just got into a fight outside a nightclub and that's how I started. I didn't go to train at some karate school for 10 or 20 years. I just stumbled upon it. Four days later I was fighting (Muay Thai)."

One of the bouncers at the nightclub invited him to his gym and Hunt, who had been going down a poor life path, suddenly found himself a fighter.

Years later he is the main attraction.

"God saved my life and so has fighting," he said. "Fighting changed my life completely. The angry kid that was lost as a child is gone. I'm an adult now — of course I make mistakes, I'm not perfect— but I'm always trying to stay straight ... I'm grateful. I've been blessed."

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