We, as a people, are obsessed with the underdog story. It’s everywhere, it transcends cultures, language barriers and even time. As long as there has been humanity there has been the story of someone facing unbeatable odds and either overcoming them or dying heroically in the face of that inevitable death, becoming an inspiration for all. It’s also this underdog story that has lost a bit of its sincerity in the world of sports over the past few decades. While everyone still loves that underdog story, we’ve become obsessed with the concept of “the best” and our “underdog story” involves characters that seem more Ivan Drago than they do Rocky.
Maybe it is our celebrity-obsessed culture that is fueled by the internet that has drawn us in this direction? Sports are now about the teams that have the biggest budgets and can attract the biggest stars, it’s about these stars owning huge homes, fleets of expensive vehicles and employing impressive staffs to keep everything running like clockwork. Floyd Mayweather is the biggest combat sports draw, the same man who served time for tax evasion and makes over one hundred million per fight. Our underdog story is no longer about supporting the actual underdog as much as it is wishing that we all were the underdog and were going to be whisked away into the world of being rich, powerful and famous just like these filthy rich athletes.
It’s this very world that needs a hero, it’s this very world that needs Mark Hunt.
Maybe if Mark Hunt wanted to he could be the best in the world, maybe he could hire a team of experts to monitor his training camps, his diet and his health so closely that he’d be turned into a super athlete. Maybe if he worked extra hard he’d go from being a guy who can hit like a freight train and take a shot from everyone not named Melvin Manhoef and keep fighting, but that isn’t the Mark Hunt that exists in reality, instead the Mark Hunt that exists in reality is always up for a brawl and might take his training seriously, but will never be seen in the same light as a guy like Georges St-Pierre. This only makes Mark Hunt that much better, though.
It’s 2013 right now and the UFC is dominated by the super athletes, the guys who can afford the state-of-the-art training facilities, the medical teams and who monitor every little variable to make sure that they head into their fights in peak condition. Mark Hunt is just a guy who trains, lives his life and shows up ready to throw down when he fights, and while he may have failed in defeating Junior Dos Santos and earning himself a shot at the UFC Heavyweight Championship, that doesn’t really matter.
Last night’s fight against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva was one of those moments where a modern MMA super athlete stepped into the cage against the Super Samoan and learned first hand what it means to punch a boulder and to have it punch back. Mark Hunt is a modern anomaly; he has achieved greatness by doing things his own way, by defying the odds and being his own man. Sure, it might be impossible to paint Bigfoot vs. Hunt as a technical masterpiece, but that fight will without a doubt go down in history as one of the best brawls in UFC history and probably the best brawl in UFC Heavyweight history.
Mark Hunt’s entire UFC run brings us back to the rich tradition of the underdog story that has been around since humanity’s inception and truly deserves a solid amount of reflection on all of our parts as to what makes a hero a hero and what we should really value when it comes to who we look to as the best in the world. Mark Hunt isn’t the most technical fighter in the world, he doesn’t train with the best camp and he might never be the UFC’s Heavyweight Champion, but Mark Hunt has proven time and time again that if you stack the odds against him he’s willing to lay it all on the line to show us what a real hero is.