After receiving medical clearance to fight again following a series of tests on his brain at the end of November, Mark Hunt has been booked to return to action.
The popular, heavy-handed and hard-headed Kiwi has been added to the UFC 221 card on February 11th in Perth, Western Australia. His foe will be on-form American Curtis Blaydes.
The UFC confirmed the match-up on Wednesday.
Hunt, whose last appearance in the octagon saw him end Derrick Lewis’ impressive six-fight winning streak via fourth-round stoppage, was initially supposed to headline November’s card down under, but he was pulled from UFC Fight Night 121 in Sydney after he made some worrying admissions in an interview with The Players Voice.
“Sometimes I don’t sleep well,” said Hunt. “You can hear me starting to stutter and slur my words. My memory is not that good anymore. I’ll forget something I did yesterday but I can remember the shit I did years and years ago. That’s just the price I’ve paid – the price of being a fighter.”
Subsequently, the UFC insisted that Hunt undergo full medical analysis at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.
Despite his symptoms, Hunt was given the all-clear.
Hunt’s relationship with his promoters has not been a particular smooth one as of late. Last year, the combat sports veteran lost a decision to returning former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, but the result was later changed to a no contest after Lesnar tested positive for a banned substance.
Hunt was irate when news of Lesnar’s violation broke and laid blame for the situation at the UFC’s feet.
Per the UFC’s anti-doping policy, athletes returning from lengthy retirements must enter the USADA testing pool for four months before they can return to competition. Lesnar had been out for four and a half years, but he was given a waiver by the promotion to skip this testing period ahead of his return to face Hunt. Exceptional circumstances were cited as the reason for granting this waiver.
Following the fight, it emerged that a sample Lesnar submitted almost two weeks before UFC 200 contained a banned substance, as did one that he presented to USADA on the night of the fight itself.
Earlier in the year, Hunt filed a lawsuit against the UFC and it’s president Dana White, in which he alleged that the promotion knew of Lesnar’s use of banned substances before UFC 200.
Hunt’s upcoming opponent, Blaydes, has won three of four fights since a stoppage defeat to Francis Ngannou last April. His other bout during that run was declared a no contest due to an injury to opponent Adam Milstead.