Exclusive: Matt Hughes on Retirement, Dana White, Miletich and Fights with BJ & GSP
Before the UFC started to break into the mainstream and became as popular as it has become today there were a few superstars who led the charge and helped keep the sports head above water. You had Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Tito Ortiz and welterweight kingpin Matt Hughes.
There are so many great highlights of Hughes efforts inside the Octagon. His bouts with Frank Trigg, Georges St. Pierre, Penn, Carlos Newton and others will be remembered for a very long time. Hughes utilized a powerful wrestling base to become one of the most dominant UFC champions in the history of the organization.
We last saw Hughes in September of last year where he battled perennial contender Josh Koscheck at UFC 135. Hughes hasn’t officially retired, but in his heart and his mind he believes he has fought for the last time. He’s always been a company man and allowed his bosses to make his fights and that’s not about to change. After achieving a ton of success, the 40-year-old Hughes is content to walk away and move on with his life.
“I’ve been doing some training, I love lifting weights and rolling around with the local guys,” said Hughes. “I’m trying to stay fit and I’ve never been a big scale guy, I go by what the mirror tells me. As far as fighting is concerned there is nothing on the docket for Matt Hughes as far as I know of. Dana has said I don’t need to fight to prove anything and that I really don’t need to fight at all. I’m not retired, but I don’t know if I’ll get the nod to fight again.”
“The UFC hasn’t said anything to me about fighting anyone. There’s nothing that I’ve seen or heard on my own that would interest me in fighting either. Some people think that fighters make the fights, but they really don’t know what’s going on. Dana White calls me up, tells me who to fight and that’s who I fight. I’ve never called Dana up and said I wanted to fight a particular fighter, that’s not how it works. When Dana calls me I’ll answer the phone and he’ll tell me what’s going on.”
The way Hughes looks at is pretty simple, White has always been good to him and to the sport, in fact he marvels at how connected and dedicated the UFC President is with all of the organizations fans. Hughes also respects how willing White is to make the fights the fans truly want to see.
“Dana White is really the best when it comes to his fans, there are times when I’ll do autograph signings and I’ll get tired and I’ll tell the fans that it’s time for me to go,” Hughes admitted. “I’ve never seen Dana turn down an autograph request. He always takes time to talk to everyone and when someone tells him they are a huge fan, Dana will go over to that person and sign as many autographs as he can. I always tell people if you want a fight to happen you need to tell your friends and put it on Twitter. Tell Dana you want to see so and so fight and if enough people do that, Dana will want to make the fans happy, he’ll make the fight. That’s the best way to go about it, if it’s a legitimate match-up of course.”
Hughes was part of the Miletich Fighting Systems team based out of Bettendorf, Iowa for the majority of his 14 year career. Head coach Pat Miletich was one of the first coaches to incorporate the use of various martial art disciplines. MFS operated long before gyms like American Top Team, Tri-Star and Jackson’s were even thought of. The amount of talent that was under one roof was extraordinary even by today’s standards.
“Pat was one of the first guys to try and combine everything under one house,” said the Hillsboro, IL native. “He was a pioneer when it came to combining a wrestling background with striking and submissions. We were the powerhouse in the US if not the whole world, I don’t know of any other gym that had the athletes that Pat had on his team. You had a group of world champions with Jens Pulver, me, Tim Sylvia, Pat and then you’d have guys like Rich Franklin and Dave Menne come in to train. That’s not to mention Jeremy Horn and a handful of other guys who were phenomenal fighters. All of these guys were successful because Pat put the right group of people together.”
If his career did end in the Pepsi Center in Denver, Co last September, Hughes can hold his head high knowing he fought the best of the best and always gave every fight everything he had. He’s fought a who’s who of world champions and will go down as one of the top five welterweights of all time. With 54 career fights littered with championship bouts and great moments, Hughes explained who he believes his toughest opponents were.
“I would definitely go with GSP and BJ Penn,” Hughes said without any hesitation. “You have two guys who both beat me twice and beat me decisively. I always say my biggest win was when I beat BJ (UFC 63) because he defeated me and I was able to overcome the mental block of him beating me. BJ always gives everyone a great first round and he did, but I was able to beat him after that. That was a big victory for me I got my title back and facing BJ again.”