by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
What do Georges St. Pierre, Royce Gracie, B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, and Hayato “Mach” Sakurai all have in common?
Besides at one time or another being considered at or hair-splittingly near the top of their respective weight classes, Matt Hughes has defeated them all. No matter how you cut it, that’s an impressive resume. It doesn’t stop there, however. Other fighters the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran has defeated include men like Frank Trigg, Chris Lytle, Joe Riggs, Carlos Newton, Dave Menne, Renato “Charuto” Verissimo, Gil Castillo, and numerous others.
The 34-year-old native of Hillsboro, Ill., where he still lives with his wife Audra, son Joey, and daughter Hanna Grace, has won the UFC welterweight championship on two separate occasions, defending it seven times, en route to a 42-6 professional record.
It’s safe to say that Matt Hughes has been a successful fighter.
But heading into Saturday’s UFC 85 in London, Hughes is in a rather uncharacteristic position, having lost two out his last three bouts, both to current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, and looking for a win. But don’t read too much into that, according to Hughes, he’s nowhere near the end of his rope.
“I’m 34 years old and I’m definitely not done yet,” he said in a recent media conference call. “Randy (Couture) is 43 and if I was 43, I’d be looking at retirement. I’m still very healthy. Right now, I actually feel great.
“Sometimes people say ‘hey Matt, you’ve won the title nine times, you can’t gain anything from beating somebody. I disagree. I think that a win over Thiago is definitely something I’m going to put on my resume as a fighter.”
He added, “I’ve still got many fights left in me. I’ve got two more fights on my contract counting the Thiago fight. By no means am I going to retire before my contract is over and I’m probably not going to retire afterwards. I feel that I have three or four fights left in me.”
Hughes recently opened a new gym, the H.I.T. Squad Gym, in Granite City, Ill., just outside of St. Louis, Mo. One of the instructors there is his teammate, EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler, who also had a fight on the recent CBS-EliteXC Saturday Night Fights event. The timing was perfect for Hughes in his preparations for Thiago Alves and UFC 85.
“It’s been great for me to get ready for my fight. When you’ve got two teammates like Robbie and I as close as we are in weight and athletics, it really works out good. I’ve always got somebody that pushes me and I’m going to push right back at him for him to get ready for his fight,” said Hughes.
Despite initial plans to have faced another former UFC champion in Matt Serra, a man that Hughes has developed somewhat of a feud with over the past year or two, he remains focused on the task at hand.
“The UFC needed somebody to step in and take over a lead role over in England. Chuck got hurt and they looked at Thiago and I to take a fight and kind of scratch their backs, so that’s why I did it,” explained for former champ.
“I’m not worried about (a fourth bout with St. Pierre). Right now I’m not even worried about Matt Serra. What I’m worried about is Thiago. Thiago I’m sure is not looking down the road. He’s got me right now.”
Hughes knows that, despite his pedigree, he has a difficult task ahead in Alves. The American Top Team product is coming into this fight only two months removed from a win over Top 10 fighter Karo Parisyan. Hughes, known for his cardio, sees that as a plus for Alves, not a minus.
“He’s coming off of a fight here pretty recent, so he’s already in shape when he got the call to fight. I don’t know that there’s going to be an advantage (for me) cardio wise or not.”
Whether others feel that Hughes has an advantage over Alves or not, Hughes’ experience is telling him not to look past the 24-year-old Brazilian. He knows he has to be on top of his game to get past a fighter that he shows great respect for.
“Thiago has very good takedown defense and he does a very good job mixing his striking with his takedown defense, so that’s one thing I’ve really got to be aware of. But you know, I can be relentless if I need to be,” says Hughes.
“Thiago is a great opponent. He’s somebody that if I get a win over Thiago, I’m definitely going to put that on my resume. He just knocked out Karo Parisyan, who I don’t think, that I know of, has ever been knocked out (before).”
Regardless of who wins the battle at UFC 85, Hughes, whose team gear sports the slogan “Army of The One,” doesn’t appear to be ready to cede the war anytime soon.
“I’m very healthy right now, no aches and pains or nagging injuries. I feel great. I’ve got many more fights under my belt.”