MONTREAL – The man who the UFC once tried to pay not to fight may soon find himself competing for the promotion’s heavyweight title.
Following today’s UFC 158 pre-event presser in Montreal, UFC President Dana White told a group of reporters that should Mark Hunt (9-7 MMA, 4-1 UFC) score a knockout win over former champ Junior dos Santos (15-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) at May’s UFC 160 event, “The Super Samoan” would likely earn himself a UFC title shot.
“It’s crazy to say, … but if he knocks Junior dos Santos out, how is this guy not next in line?” White asked.
Hunt is set to face dos Santos at UFC 160, which 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.
Hunt wasn’t originally expected to be part of the card, but he was called upon when dos Santos’ original opponent, Alistair Overeem, was forced to withdraw from the event due to injury. White then approached Hunt and said the Kiwi slugger initially turned down the bout. However, the two spoke again and smoothed things over, and Hunt was booked for the matchup.
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.
For the latest on UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Mark Hunt)