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Mark Hunt Turned Down $300,000 To Retire in 2007 Because Fighting Is Better Than Money

The Super Samoan cleanses MMA’s collective palate.
Photos by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC​

According to reports circulating today, UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor will be getting his dreamed-of rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 200 on July 9. Which means we can all look forward to 3 ½ months of MMA fans arguing over whether actually McGregor deserves another shot at Diaz; 3 ½ months of every other UFC featherweight grousing about their champion vanishing to another weight class and denying them their rightful shots at his title; 3 ½ months of McGregor and Diaz bad-mouthing each other at press conferences, in interviews, and on talk shows; and 3 ½ months of Conor McGregor talking about money.


Money is Conor McGregor's favorite topic of conversation, of course, his idée fixe, his obsession, because for him it's the quickest and most effective way to determine the value of a human life. Money, in McGregor's worldview, is the world's great clarifier, a kind of shorthand to gauge success and worth. When McGregor wants to truly discredit and get at the heart of one of his opponents he aims for their bank statements and then compares them with his own. Inevitably he finds theirs, and by association them, lacking. And he sees it as an act of disdainful noblesse oblige to change their "bum lives" for the better by embarrassing them in the cage.

During their build-up to their fight on March, McGregor was relentless on the subject of Diaz's highly publicized salary, which Diaz found simply meager but McGregor found telling. Your pay is proof of your worth, McGregor would say, which means you're worth almost nothing. I tip what you earn. But don't worry, I'm here to save you and make you a rich man. Even a loss to me (which is as inevitable as death) will change your world forever.

Now that they're fighting for a second time, and now that what McGregor was saying has come true (Diaz, according to UFC President Dana White, made millions from their first fight and he's been lavished with media attention ever since he won), do we really expect McGregor to sit back and let Diaz forget who it was who put all those millions in his pockets? No chance. Conor McGregor will use Diaz's newfound wealth as yet another cudgel to beat him with, as confirmation of McGregor's primacy, and money will once again be at the center of the build-up to an MMA fight.


This is the only thing that's ever bothered me about Conor McGregor, who is a master fighter, a master talker, and a master showman: his damned obsession with and fanatical belief in the meaning of money. In our age of dazzling economic inequality and unrivalled materialism, McGregor's money evangelism always leaves me cold.

But don't worry: It turns out MMA has the antidote for its own disease. A built-in cleansing agent. A great purifier. An anti-Conor, if you will.

A few days ago in the Daily Telegraph, Dana White revealed that when the UFC bought the Japanese Pride promotion in 2007 he tried to buy Mark Hunt (who was under contract to Pride at the time) out of his contract for a whopping $300,000. At that point Mark Hunt was no longer the world-beater he was back when he won the K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing tournament in 2001, and White wanted him to go away. To make staying in the promotion seem even more unappealing, White told Hunt he would only be making $6000 per fight if he stayed.

"So we thought 300 grand was enough to make him go away,'' White said. "But you all know what happened: Mark refused. He told me something like, 'No way. Fuck that shit. I love fighting, it's who I am.'"

It turned out to be the right decision on Hunt's part, of course. Since joining the UFC the 41-year-old has had an unprecedented career resurgence, a real second life, fighting 11 fights, some of them classics, establishing himself as a legitimate title contender, and making far more than $300,000.

Not that the money concerns Hunt that much, apparently. Earlier today during a press gaggle before his fight this weekend against Frank Mir in Brisbane, Australia, Hunt revealed why exactly he turned down that 300 grand and decided to slog it out in UFC poverty instead.

Yes, Hunt said he still wanted a chance to prove himself, and of course he said he wanted to his achieve his "goals and dreams" and become the "best fighter on the planet again," but the real delight in Hunt's response came after he'd done away with all the athlete pabulum and struck a blow for humanity and cold inevitability.

"Actually I don't really care about money," he said. "In the end I think we're all going to be dying without anything, so who gives a rats how much money you have in the bank account?"

A true and lovely existentialist retort to the consumerist gospel of Conor McGregor.