Ahead of UFC on FUEL TV 8, Mark Hunt explains how fighting and MMA 'saved his life'

Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight contender Mark Hunt explains how fighting and participating in mixed martial arts (MMA) at a young age saved his life and helped him avoid a path that would have led him straight to jail.

Currently enjoying a career resurrection of sorts, Mark Hunt went from simply getting a spot on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster due to fights owed to him from his PRIDE FC contract, to being a legit threat in the promotion's heavyweight division.

"Super Samoan" has now reeled of three straight victories inside the Octagon after dropping his previous six contests under the aforementioned PRIDE and DREAM organizations, as well as coming up short in his Octagon debut against Sean McCorkle back in 2010.

The hard-hitting heavyweight contender, like many athletes, saw sports -- specifically fighting and martial arts -- as a safe haven from the troubles surrounding his everyday life.

Admittedly saying he was doing "stupid things" as a kid, Hunt says he avoided a path that would have surely landed him in jail thanks to fighting and was determined to make a career out of it even if he was the only one believing he could.

Hunt recently spoke to FUEL TV AUS and talked about how fighting saved his life:

"If I wasn't a fighter, I'd probably be in jail. Like I said before, fighting saved my life. As a kid I was always doing stupid things, but, combat sports, martial arts saved me. When everyone else didn't believe in me, it was just me that believed in myself. Fighting, it saved me from (having) that chip on my shoulder, it took that chip away. I didn't have to prove anything. Martial arts gave that to me. That's the blessing it gave to me."

As Hunt looks to earn his fourth straight victory, he will literally have a tall task ahead of him as he takes on seven-foot Stefan Struve in the co-main event of UFC on FUEL TV 8 this weekend (Mar. 2, 2013) as Mark returns to his old stomping grounds of Saitama, Japan.

Not much of a strategist, when the former K-1 kickboxer goes toe-to-toe against "Skyscraper," he says he will simply be looking to "knock his head off" once the cage door closes:

"I have a game plan, I have a great game plan. My game plan is just knock his head off. That's the game plan. No, I don't have a plan, I don't have a strategy. I just try to make myself better, so, the better I am at fighting, the more he is going to get hurt."

With current top 265-pound contenders Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos suffering defeats in their last outings to Antonio Silva and Cain Velasquez, respectively, it isn't too far fetched to believe the winner of this much-anticipated showdown between Struve and Hunt -- two heavyweights currently enjoying the longest winning streaks in the division -- will set himself up nicely for title fight consideration.

According to Hunt, whoever he faces will be in for a true fight because the New Zealander is "willing to go that extra mile to go over the edge" in order to do whatever it takes to achieve his goal.

And, at the end of the day, that goal is a shot at the UFC's heavyweight title.

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