A nostalgic return to Japan looms for New Zealand UFC star Mark Hunt in his first fight in more than a year, in March.
The former K-1 world champion will take part in a co-main event fight with Dutchman Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel 8 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan on March 3.
The heavyweight pair were due to clash at UFC 146 in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 25 last year, but Hunt, who holds a 3-1 UFC record since his fight debut in 2010, had to pull out of the fight after badly injuring his right knee in training.
The 38-year-old was an MMA standout in a combat sports-mad Japan in the early 2000s.
As well as being 2001 K-1 world champion, Hunt took part in what is seen as one of the great MMA match-ups when he fought, and lost to, fellow Kiwi Ray Sefo in Fukuoka the same year.
The Sydney-based Hunt, who spent a large amount of time back in Auckland during his convalescence, is unbeaten in the UFC since he lost his first fight to Sean McCorkle in 2010, with his recent defeats of Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell featuring stunning knock-outs.
Struve, who has a record of 9-3, will be no pushover, however, with the tallest fighter on the UFC's books (at 2.13m) having not lost an MMA fight since a knockout by Travis Browne at UFC 130 in May 2011.
Hunt has been long rumoured to have the ability to earn a UFC heavyweight title fight - but the MMA veteran would need a comprehensive defeat of Struve to put himself in a position to negotiate with UFC boss Dana White on a scrap with new champion Cain Velasquez.
Hunt's fight will follow that of fellow Kiwi James Te Huna in the UFC, with the Darfield-born little heavyweight matching up against Englishman Ryan Jimmo at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in London on February 16.
- © Fairfax NZ News