They make movies about guys like Harry Hunsucker Jr.
In fact, someone already did, with the documentary “Rise of an Underdog” about to hit the universe after the Kentucky product’s UFC 278 fight against Tyson Pedro on Saturday.
It’s not a Hallmark Channel story, complete with sunshine, rainbows and happy endings. There has been precious little sunshine and few rainbows, but the 32-year-old is working on that happy ending, regardless of what happens when he meets his third Australian opponent in as many fights, something he insists was not by design. At least not his.
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“Man, I don't know what the deal is,” Hunsucker laughs. “Every fight that (UFC matchmaker) Mick (Maynard) brings to me is an Australian. So I'm not sure if I did something in a past life to make all these dudes want to fight me. But me and Bam Bam (Tuivasa) were cool, me and (Justin) Tafa were cool. I had drinks with both of them after the fights.”
Well, on the bright side, after Pedro, there’s only one Aussie left at 205 pounds – Jimmy Crute.
“Hopefully the third time's the charm and I'll get someone who's not Australian after this fight,” he said.
What about New Zealand?
“Maybe, I don't know.”
What Hunsucker does know, is that his back is up against the wall after a loss on Dana White’s Contender Series to Jared Vanderaa and a pair of defeats to Tai Tuivasa and Justin Tafa, all by first round stoppage. A similar result against Pedro wouldn’t be a good thing, and he knows it. But he also knows that when it comes to his losses, there aren’t excuses, but reasons, to why he didn’t come out on top.
“Let's be honest, I'm the black sheep of the UFC right now, and I'm probably the biggest underdog on any card,” Hunsucker said. “But it's because I've not asked for a small bite to chew off. I took the biggest fight every time that they've given me one. I fought Jared Vanderaa on the Contender Series on four days' notice, I fought ‘Bam Bam’ Tuivasa, who's the number three heavyweight in the world now - I fought him on four days' notice, and then my last fight I fought the first heavyweight in UFC history to miss weight - ever. I have had a Murderers Row of opponents and I've had the deck stacked against me every time.”
But he still showed up and asked for more. He gets it against Pedro, who returned from a nearly three-and-a-half-year layoff in April to stop Ike Villanueva in the first round. The Aussie is the favorite, and rightfully so, against the 7-5 Hunsucker, but “The Hurricane” is in Salt Lake City, he made the light heavyweight limit for the first time in his career, and he’s ready to go.
Yes, for the first time, Hunsucker will be fighting as a 205er.
“It's actually been a lot easier than I thought it was gonna be, but when we got to fight week last time, I was almost at 230 during fight week for a heavyweight fight, fighting a guy who missed weight, and I was walking around comfortably at like 235,” said Hunsucker. “So once we got down to there, I was like, 'Maybe 205 isn't so far off.'
A test cut proved to him that it was possible, and Friday morning, he hit his mark, coming in at 204.5 pounds. On Saturday, he believes he will show up a different fighter than he has been.
“I've always fought guys who weighed 20-30 pounds more than me, and this time I will not be giving up any weight and that's what this drop is all about,” he said. “I'm giving up height and weight on guys that are on the same level, skill wise, and now I'm evening the playing field. And I think there's gonna be a lot of surprised people on Saturday night.”
The most surprised? He expects it to be Tyson Pedro.
“As soon as I can put a little bit of fear in him, doubt's gonna start going all through his mind because once he gets past the first two or three minutes of that fight, his listing as the favorite will start to change, and the in-fight statistics will really start to change once I get comfortable in there and once he starts to get stressed,” said Hunsucker. “Because if he doesn't lay me down quick, all the pressure's on Tyson Pedro. Look who's got the big story right now. I'm just showing up to have a good time and to show the work that I've done and to really showcase who I am as a fighter, which I've not been able to do yet.”
It's not been from a lack of trying, and while the results of his hard work haven’t shown up on his record, yet, the successes in life far outweigh those that have taken place on fight night, and that’s the most important thing to someone who will get to show people a little more of where he’s come from and where he’s going in the documentary, which has been in the works for the last year-and-a-half.
“It was a really cool experience, honestly,” said Hunsucker. “Those guys came out of nowhere and they followed me around for 14-15 months, and they filmed all kinds of parts of my life and they built a beautiful showcase of the last year-and-a-half of my life and the whirlwind of emotions from the time that I got the call from Mick to fight Tuivasa and make my UFC debut. It was humbling and it was amazing. It was a beautiful experience and I think that it helped me prepare for what's next for me in life and the biggest fight of my life.”
Professionally, and on paper, Pedro may be the biggest fight of Hunsucker’s life, but in reality, just getting here was the biggest fight, and that’s something he wants his four kids, aged six months to 11, to know about their dad. But he’s not looking to be their hero, because in his eyes, they’re his heroes, writing in his official UFC bio, “My heroes are my children. They give me strength I never thought I had, and they inspire me daily.”
I asked him to expand on that a bit, and he didn’t hesitate to do so.
“My kids have been through hell, man,” Hunsucker said. “They've really watched us build up from nothing. At first, it was just me and my son. We were homeless, sometimes sleeping in the corner of a bedroom, sharing a bedroom with my cousin. Then I met my wife, and me and my wife moved into this dirty-ass trailer park, and we ended up having to move because we couldn't get rid of the bedbugs. And then when my daughter was born, my wife was suffering through active addiction again, and my daughter watched me carry my wife's dead father out of our house from an overdose. My kids have been through hell, and they deserve a good life. And my job is to provide them with a life they don't have to run away from like me and my wife had to.”
Now you see why they make movies about guys like Harry Hunsucker Jr. Tyson Pedro is about to find that out.
“I just bought the martial arts school that I've run for ten years, I'm getting ready to fight my third fight for the UFC, and I've given people a lot of reasons to hate,” Hunsucker said of his journey here. “But for the people that truly support me and back me up, they know the work that I've put in to get where I am. They know the changes that I've made, they know the sleepless nights, they know all the s**t that I went through to get where I am. And they know that no matter if they're calling me the underdog on Vegas odds, they know that I come to fight every time.”
UFC 278: Usman vs Edwards 2 took place live from the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 20, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses- and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!