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With Mark Hunt's win, the most stubborn career in all of MMA trudges on

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One of these days Mark Hunt really is going to retire. He has to. You get the sense that maybe he even wants to, at least until he thinks about it for two seconds.

But regardless, when that inevitable moment finally does come, don’t expect it to be accompanied by fireworks or long, tearful speeches. Expect it to look more like what happened after Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 110 main event in Auckland, New Zealand, where Hunt stopped Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) in the fourth round and then told us, hey, even if that turned out to be his last fight, “so be it.”

“I’ve had a good run,” Hunt (13-11-1 MMA, 8-5-1 UFC) said in the octagon after his victory. “I’ve had a lot of fun, traveled the world. But it looks like it’s still continuing.”

If you didn’t know better, you’d say he almost sounded surprised.

In a way, it’s hard to blame him. At 43, with more than 50 combined fights in kickboxing and MMA, Hunt has lived a few different lifetimes worth of combat sports, from birth to death to improbable resurrection. His rises never last, but neither do his declines.

So when Hunt spent four rounds slowly grinding Lewis into a physical and psychological submission, then showed up at the post-fight press conference to say, sure, he guessed he’d keep fighting, how surprised could we really be?

“I like to get beat up,” Hunt said. “Shucks, there’s nothing else I’m good at. But I’ve got a couple of fights I want to finish. Why not see the contract out and then retire?”

That leaves Hunt as a continuing fixture in the heavyweight division of a fight promotion that didn’t want him, that was in fact so convinced of his uselessness it tried to pay him not to fight. Hunt wouldn’t go away then and he won’t go away now, so what is the UFC supposed to do with him?

The fight with Lewis was one attempt to answer that question. A rising heavyweight slugger against an established one, adding a little hometown juice to a UFC Fight Night event in need of some name value. After years of building a reputation for winning all at once and then celebrating with a pleasant evening stroll, this was a fight that Hunt won a little at time.

He walked Lewis down. He trapped him against the fence and suffocated him with a slow and steady pressure. He had to take his share of punishment in return, but he didn’t seem to mind that. Without it, he’d hardly know he’d been in a fight.

In the end, Lewis wilted, grimacing his way to a TKO stoppage and a somewhat noncommittal retirement speech of his own, one tempered with words like “probably.” Hunt, meanwhile, surged to victory, breathing a little more life into his endless career. Like his lawsuit against the UFC, Hunt’s fighting days just seem to stretch on and on.

Will he ever be a UFC champion, or even get another crack at it? Maybe not. But even with a win-loss record that’s thoroughly unimpressive on paper, it’s impossible to call his career anything but a success, if only for the stubborn longevity of it.

Eventually, Hunt will have to quit. He probably won’t have much to say about it when that day does come, but sooner or later it has to happen. It just doesn’t have to happen yet, and so it won’t, which shouldn’t surprise us.

If there’s one thing we ought to know about Hunt by now, it’s that he doesn’t go away easily. Whole careers have been built on less. In a sport that’s often a contest to see who’ll give up and quit first, simply refusing to do so is one way to end up a legend.

For more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Events section of the site.



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