What's to become of you, Mark Hunt?

Just before his unanimous decision loss to Curtis Blaydes in the co-main event of UFC 221, Mark Hunt laid out a plan for his future.

“After the three fights with the UFC, I’d like to fight globally three more times and then retire,” Hunt (13-12-1 MMA, 8-6-1 UFC) told MMAjunkie. “Hang it up.”

Just to be clear, that’s the oldest fighter on the UFC roster – Hunt will be 44 next month (but still can hang with the young bucks in the club) – looking six fights into the future and envisioning a glorious end outside the UFC. Even better, he doesn’t seem to think it’s such a big deal.

When Hunt vows to “hang it up,” it’s with this air of resigned reluctance, the way your dad admits that one of these days he’s going to have to break down and get a new lawnmower.

That’s a guy who still loves to play punch-face, even if he is closing in on two decades as a professional fighter.

And if not for the uncommonly solid chin of Blaydes (10-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC), Hunt might be sitting on a two-fight winning streak right now. A couple clean punches from Hunt had him looking like the early stages of a highlight reel knockout early in the fight, right before his takedowns saved him from a sudden visit to the dark lands.

But the weird thing about Hunt is that it doesn’t really seem to matter whether he won or lost. He’s still going to keep fighting either way, and fan interest in seeing him try to knock someone’s head off is not significantly diminished by his inability to stop Blaydes’ double-leg.

The market for Hunt’s specific brand of violence still is very strong. He wants to keep doing this well into his mid-40s? And he’s still reasonably competitive, even against guys like Blaydes, who at 26 is almost half his age? Then fine, you know there’ll be someone willing to cut him a check.

This game is not going to be through with Hunt until he decides he’s through with it. And to hear him tell it, he’s got at least a couple more years and maybe even a couple different fight promotions still to go.

Ten years ago, this is probably not the career path many people would have predicted for Hunt. He was a fun, but not terribly successful heavyweight in PRIDE. When Zuffa bought that promotion, UFC President Dana White actually tried to pay Hunt not to fight, until Hunt insisted on having his existing contract honored.

He would go on to become a surprisingly serious heavyweight title contender, which isn’t something that happens too often on the heels of a six-fight losing skid.

Now he’s shared the cage with just about every great heavyweight of the last decade and a half, battling everyone from Fedor Emelianenko to Stipe Miocic. He’s walked through “Cro Cop” head kicks and stuffed Brock Lesnar takedowns. He had one of the greatest fights in heavyweight history when he went five rounds in a draw against Antonio Silva. The scars he’s accumulated along the way are like a roadmap linking nearly everyone who mattered in this division for the last 10-plus years.

I don’t know what you can even do with Hunt anymore, except for basically anything you want to. Because the guy who refused free money just so he could go get hit in the head on TV some more? Yeah, he’s probably not going to leave this sport quietly. He might not even leave it in this decade.

For more on UFC 221, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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