In the span of a little over two years, Mark Hunt has gone from the laughing stock of the mixed martial arts (MMA) community to a legitimate contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight division.
Hunt's story is well known by now -- he was owed fights by the UFC from when the organization purchased Pride in 2007 and instead of letting him compete, the UFC just wanted to pay "The Super Samoan" the money he was owed and part ways.
Not so fast.
Skip forward a couple of years and here Hunt is, on the verge of competing in the co-main event of the one year's major pay-per-view (PPV) fight cards --UFC 160-- against a former world champion in Junior dos Santos.
There were several bumps in the road for Hunt to get here -- most notably a 63-second submission loss to Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut and a series of surgeries that kept him on the mend for most of 2012.
But he didn't let any of that stop him.
The 39-year-old has battled through all the trials and tribulations, and on the verge of his biggest UFC fight to date; UFC President Dana White thinks Hunt's resurgence is currently one of the greatest stories not just in MMA, but in all of sports.
White explained to MMA Junkie:
He felt very disrespected and felt like he never really belonged here ... He had a losing record in PRIDE and we didn't want to bring him into the UFC, so we said, 'We'll pay you the money and you can ride off into the sunset and do your thing.' And he was like, 'F--- that. I want to be paid to fight.' First of all, a losing record, his age, the guy hadn't fought in a long time. It just made no sense to bring the guy in.
Even though we weren't wrong (about not wanting him at first), we ended up being wrong. He proved us wrong, he proved everybody who doubted him wrong. We just didn't cut him, we kept him -- and imagine if we had cut him.
Since that day, how we didn't want him, and just wanted to pay him and have him basically go away, he took incredible offense to that and never felt like he really belonged here ... I understand that. I said, 'I'll fix the things that made you feel this way. You're right, and I'm sorry this happened to you. We do respect you and I think you're one of the greatest stories in sports right now, to be honest with you.' So I got everything worked out and now he's ecstatic and I'm happy I could do it.
Hunt is most definitely an inspiring story to anyone out there that is down and thinks they are out for good. The native of New Zealand never gave up on his passion and is now potentially just one big win away from challenging for the UFC heavyweight title -- a scenario absolutely no one would have dreamed of when Hunt was quickly submitted in his UFC debut.
UFC 160: "Velasquez vs. Bigfoot 2" goes down May 25, 2013 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Along with the Hunt vs. dos Santos co-main event, the heavyweight title will be on the line in the main event as Cain Velasquez is scheduled to meet Antonio Silva for the second time.
For more news and notes on UFC 160, check out our complete event archive here.