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Ultimate fighter: Mark Hunt will feature on the UFC’s biggest fight card on Sunday morning (Australian Eastern Standard time). Picture: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty ImagesSelf-described Aussie-Kiwi Mark Hunt, aka the 120kg “super-Samoan”, is set for an eye-catching fight against former heavyweight champion and pro wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar in UFC200’s main event on Saturday night in Las Vegas (Sunday morning AEST).
苏州美甲美睫培训学校

The thick-set, 5’10 resident of Campbelltown in Western Sydney, who has faced adversity throughout his life and mixed-martial arts (MMA) career, is confident of extending his current knock-out streak when he confronts Lesnar in what he says is the “highest-profile card in UFC history”.

“I think I’m the best fighter on the planet – sitting right here – and defeating Lesnar takes me a step closer to the UFC title,” Hunt says in an interview with Fairfax Media adjacent to the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Billed as the biggest fight pay-per-view event of 2016, UFC200 has attracted enormous global media attention.

The dyed-blonde haired Hunt is adored by fans around the world – including Hollywood celebrities likeTheFast and the Furiousactor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – for his durability and infamous punching power, which precedes his signature “knock-out walk offs”.

The blonde hair is a tribute to characters in the Japanese manga series,Dragon Ball.

“Mark Hunt’s f—–g hardcore background is really, really impressive and provides another perspective when he steps into the octagon,” Johnson, who shares Hunt’s Samoan heritage, said during the week.

The 42-year-old New Zealand-born Christian, who has six children and has called Australia “home” since he was 23, estimates he has earned “up to $7 million” over his 17-year professional combat sports career.

The peak to date was winning the prestigious K-1 World Grand Prix kick-boxing tournament in Tokyo, Japan. “But I’ve sadly gambled away three or four houses worth of that cash during my long addiction with the pokies,” Hunt reveals. “I was hooked bad.”

Horrifically beaten as a child, Hunt spent a tortured youth as a car thief and criminal brawler on the mean streets of South Auckland, and spent two stints in New Zealand’s jails.

Redemption was found through marriage, family and religion. “They’ve helped put the addictions and demons behind me,” Hunt says. “I was a stupid sinner – and I’m by no means perfect today.”

While he won’t reveal his pay for UFC200, which on Thursday was upgraded to sole “main event” status after the withdrawal of Jon Jones from his light-heavyweight title bout, Hunt offers up that “it’s a lot of money”.

“I wasn’t initially wanted by the UFC but I worked hard to rack-up wins and get back into the good books of [UFC owners] Dana White and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta – we agreed a great new contract that is better than the old one, although I’ve been ripped off again by my management company. I know about fighting-not much about business.”

In the space of 15 years, the Fertitta brothers and White have transformed a company they paid US$2 million ($2.67 million) for into the fastest growing sporting organisation in the world, worth a rumoured US$4.2 billion ($5.6 billion) today. And though the UFC brass describe Hunt as a tough negotiator, they “love him”. Chief global brand officer Gary Cook tells Fairfax Media that he’s predicting Hunt will triumph, a conclusion bookies agree with.

Throughout his up and down career Hunt has almost always prevailed when he’s ditched the junk food, booze and drugs, chiselled his sometimes flabby physique, and committed to proper preparation, which has been the exception rather than the rule.

“I feel fit and healthy for the Lesnar battle,” Hunt says, “having spent the last few weeks in the Vegas heat with my crew getting ready”. He’s paid for a large entourage of family and friends to travel with him to “thank them for their support during the tough times”.

The former front-rower is almost as wide as he is tall, dwarfing Mike Tyson in a recent photo, and cites players from both rugby codes – Israel Folau, Paul Gallen, Jason Stevens and the Fainga’a twins – as sportsmen he admires. While playing league professionally appealed at one point, Hunt reckons he was “born to fight”.

Following in Hunt’s footsteps is another emerging Aussie UFC star, 21 year-old lightweight (77kg) prospect Jake Matthews, who takes on talented 23 year-old American wrestler Kevin Lee in The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale on UFC Fight Pass on Friday night (Saturday AEST).

Matthews has strong MMA heritage: his father, Mick, with whom he jointly runs an MMA gym in Melbourne, was a national taekwondo champ while his mum competed at state level.

Since the UFC’s Ronda Rousey and Holy Holm card in Melbourne, which packed 56,000 people into Ethiad stadium, Matthews has noticed a big increase in local interest in the sport, especially among females.

Father Mick says Australians are culturally disposed to succeeding in MMA because “we’re tough and live much of our life outdoors”, which for Jake involved dirt-bike riding, wakeboarding, rock-climbing and abseiling.

With quiet assurance the ascendant UFC light-weight says he could “beat current world-champion Rafael Dos Anjos today,” and hopes to pip Mark Hunt and Rob Whittaker, a middleweight contender, to be the first Aussie to win a UFC title.

Whereas Hunt was forged as a fighter by necessity, Matthews is the 21st century professional athlete that’s already earning more than similarly ranked Australians in boxing, says Mick.

Interestingly, Matthews is inspired not by the accomplishments of other sportspeople but by the deeds of the Special Air Service Regiment, Australia’s elite counter-terrorist unit, recently touring their secret barracks in Perth.

“Those are the guys making the real sacrifices,” he says, nominating Keith Fennell’s bookWarrior Brothersabout life in the SAS as his favourite.

The UFC hosted Victoria Cross recipient and former SAS Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith at their Brisbane event in March where Hunt and Matthews both brutally finished opponents.

Another SAS hero, Victoria Cross winner and Young Australian of the Year, Mark Donaldson, who is still serving with the regiment, says “the boys love the UFC”.

“There are strong parallels with the Spartan warrior culture, which is all about bettering yourself not just for the fight, but for life.”

“I did martial arts when I was younger and MMA – which encompasses Olympic disciplines like judo, boxing, wrestling, and taekwondo – requires 360 degree awareness and the use of all parts of your body,” Donaldson says.

Another SAS operator, who cannot be identified, confirms “the UFC is popular in the unit – we adopt elements of MMA and Krav Maga, among others, in our unarmed combat techniques”.

“Yet in our case there are no rules, so we train to bring about the quickest resolution possible, using all or any means at our disposal – you’d be surprised how useful a pen can be.”

Matthews senior claims the stereotype of the thuggish cage fighter is a myth: “people forget that most UFC athletes have university degrees from their US college wrestling days – Jake himself is completing a bachelor of applied science.”

“The best UFC fighters are also smart and, unlike boxing, when you are knocked out the fight is over,” he says.

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