The “Cinderella Story” is a cliché thrown around in sports for when an athlete turns around from a career low to reach the top of his/her sport. The term is meant to give hope and to inspire athletes to never stop working and competing. A Cinderella athlete is one to whom fans the world over look up and shower their support.
In 2012, the world of mixed martial arts saw New Zealand heavyweight fighter, Mark Hunt, as its very own Cinderella story. Following his knockout win over Cheick Kongo almost exactly one year ago today, Hunt seemed on the path of perhaps one the greatest comeback in MMA history. Before entering the UFC, he held a professional MMA record of 5-6. Today, his record sits at 8-7, but what those numbers don’t tell you is the remarkable change in Hunt’s game.
Before last year, Hunt was probably most famous for his days in K-1 and Pride where he fought the top fighters of the time. He won the 2001 K-1 Grand Prix, and in Pride he held victories over Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva. Unfortunately, the further along he went in MMA, the more he began to face fighters who utilized grappling and jiu jitsu to overcome the heavy-hitting Samoan. Of his losses, 6 came via submission.
This is perhaps why Hunt’s string of wins in 2011 and 2012 was so inspiring. Not to discount his two KO’s, his decision win over Ben Rothwell showed an unbelievable improvement to Hunt’s ground game. I don’t think I remember UFC announcer, Joe Rogan, being more excited while calling a fight than when Hunt took Big Ben’s back.
Hunt’s actions outside the cage only compounded the fan support he received for his success in the cage. Hunt has been vocal that fighting has saved his life, and his sincere love for the sport made him a crowd favorite. So when a title shot opened up after Alistair Overeem failed a random drug test, the fans responded overwhelmingly that Hunt should get the fight. Remember the #RallyForMarkHunt trend? Though it didn’t come to fruition, it showed just what a crowd favorite Hunt had become.
When Dana White announced that Hunt would not get the title shot, the UFC President did say that he was close. “If he beats Struve,” a fight that was originally slated for last May, “he’ll break in and start fighting some of the top five heavyweights in the world.” With Hunt pulling out from that fight last year, we can only hope that an impressive victory this Saturday will put him right back where he left off.
Be sure to tune into Fuel TV this Saturday 7pm/10pm PTET for the UFC on Fuel TV 8 live from Japan. If you’re unable to get it on TV, you can always get the live play-by-play right here on bjpenn.com.
Shouted out after victory to the UFC masses, BJPENN.COM is the home to multiple time champion BJ Penn. After a decade of on-line operation BJPENN.COM has evolved into the most reliable destination for all your fighter interviews, fighter blogs and MMA/UFC news stories.