The soap opera was short-lived, but it appears to have a good ending right now.
Heavyweight Mark Hunt (9-7 MMA, 4-1 UFC) will meet former champion Junior dos Santos (15-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) in May at UFC 160. The news comes just a few days after UFC President Dana White said Hunt turned down the chance to fight dos Santos. But a rather quick turn of events and a phone call have turned things around.
MMAFighting.com on Saturday reported the fight booking, citing White, and UFC officials later made the bout official.
UFC 160 takes place May 25 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and Facebook. In the main event, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez defends his title against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.
Earlier this week, former No. 1 contender Alistair Overeem (36-12 MMA, 1-1 UFC) pulled out of a highly anticipated fight with dos Santos in the co-main event slot of the card. A thigh injury was the culprit, and the initial plan was for that fight to be rebooked for the summer.
When Overeem pulled out of the fight with dos Santos, Hunt’s name immediately came to the forefront after his upset of Stefan Struve at UFC on FUEL TV 8 a week ago – a knockout win in which he shattered the 7-footer’s jaw. But White said on Twitter that Hunt turned down the opportunity to fill in for Overeem.
White also said the New Zealander would get a big fight his next time out, despite turning down the JDS fight, given his four straight UFC wins. But on Friday, White said on Twitter that he had a phone conversation with Hunt that went well. And in the wake of that, dos Santos won’t have to wait until summer before fighting again and Hunt has his next big fight.
Hunt came to the UFC in 2010 on a five-fight losing skid for PRIDE and DREAM – but all losses to some of the sport’s biggest names: Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, Overeem, Melvin Manhoef and Gegard Mousasi. He was owed fights from Zuffa’s purchase of PRIDE, and after a quick submission loss to Sean McCorkle in his promotional debut at UFC 119, he wasn’t thought to be much of a factor in the heavyweight division.
But he snapped his six-fight losing streak with a “Submission of the Night” win over Chris Tuchscerer at UFC 127, outpointed Ben Rothwell at UFC 135 and stopped Cheick Kongo in the first round at UFC 144. After a year off, he returned to Japan and got a “Knockout of the Night” bonus for his war and ultimate destruction of Struve – which came despite about a 14-inch height differential.
As for dos Santos, he’ll fight for the first time since losing his heavyweight title to Velasquez in a rematch this past December at UFC 155. That dominating five-round win for Velasquez not only allowed him to recapture the title dos Santos took from him with a 64-second knockout at UFC on FOX 1, but snapped dos Santos’ 10-fight win streak.
For the latest on UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Mark Hunt)