by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
It seems like a natural rivalry that’s built up lately between Matt Hughes and the Gracie Family. The former UFC welterweight champion has fought and defeated two Gracies, as well as Renzo Gracie black belt Matt Serra, but Hughes says there’s no rivalry, it’s just business.
Some had compared Hughes to famed Pride fighter Kazushi Sakuraba, who garnered the nickname “The Gracie Hunter” for his victories over the famed family, but the Illinois native doesn’t take any of that to heart.
He’s simply fought who the UFC put in front of him, and has nothing but respect for the Gracie family of fighters.
“I don’t think there’s anything personal between Ricardo and I. My last opponent was his coach, and I don’t blame him. I did the same thing. After Pat Miletich lost a couple times, I wanted to face those same guys. So I understand where Ricardo’s at, what he’s doing, and it’s nothing personal to me,” Hughes said on Thursday.
“I don’t want to be called the ‘Gracie Killer.’ I like Renzo and Royce, they were just the guys the UFC put in front of me.”
Hughes did take on former UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton after the Canadian submitted Pat Miletich at UFC 31 in 2001. It was Hughes’ first reign as champion after he defeated Newton, and then fought and defeated him again within a one-year time span.
Almeida has stated previously that the fight with Hughes is more about redemption that revenge. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has studied under Renzo Gracie for years, and considers the legendary fighter a mentor and close friend.
“No, nothing really personal from my side. I was there in the corner when Matt knocked out Renzo and I asked for the fight then. I think a big part of a team is having your training partner’s back, and it was definitely an emotional night for me, but nothing personal,” said Almeida.
“Just a chance to fight a UFC hall of famer, someone who’s done a lot for the sport, and hopefully a step up the ladder.”
The fight between Almeida and Hughes could move one of them on in the welterweight division title picture, but again both played that down and stated that they’ll worry about those sorts of things after Saturday night.
The two welterweights will square off as part of the main televised card for UFC 117 on pay-per-view Saturday night from Oakland, Calif.