With 54 professional bouts already on his resume, two different occasions holding the UFC welterweight championship, seven title defenses, and being a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, what is left for Matt Hughes to prove in the Octagon?
Short and sweet, the answer really is… nothing.
Yet, the 37-year-old remains a UFC staple. He returns following a 10-month layoff at UFC 135 on Saturday night when he steps in the Octagon with Josh Koscheck. Hughes’ original opponent, Diego Sanchez, had to drop out due to a broken hand.
But it’s that competition, fighting the best of the best, that keeps the Midwesterner in the cage.
“It’s competition. That’s what drives your top athletes in the UFC. It’s about getting in there against one other person and mixing it up,” Hughes told MMAWeekly.com on Monday. “The fact that it’s just me and one other person competing in there, that’s my big drive right there.”
The question, however, is how long will competition – that test to prove ones self mano-e-mano – be enough.
Hughes loves his life in the Octagon, constantly testing his skill against increasingly younger opposition.
“I love going to the gym every day, twice a day. I love traveling with my buddies. All in all, it’s a great lifestyle.”
He also enjoys his time away from fighting as well. He’s got a family, a farm, and no shortage of other pursuits. Hughes has an autobiography out and takes part in various publications and programs revolving around hunting, another of his passions.
Saturday’s Koscheck fight marks the final bout on his current contract, so with that and pressure from his family, will it finally be enough for Hughes to call it a day in the cage, and step up his pursuits outside the Octagon?
“After this fight, win or lose doesn’t matter, I’ll talk to the UFC and we’ll figure out what we’re gonna do,” Hughes commented. “My wife tells me I’m done fighting. She wanted me to quit after the BJ (Penn) fight.
“So, we’ll just see what I feel like, and we’ll see what the UFC wants to do. But this is the last fight on the contract, so it doesn’t matter what happens Saturday.”
Though Penn knocked him out at UFC 123 – he did so in just 21 seconds – that fight marked his first loss after three consecutive wins. Hughes has been KO’d before, but he hasn’t really taken much abuse for a fighter heading into his 55th fight, not that many mixed martial artists ever make it that far.
So despite his 38th birthday being less than a month away, if Hughes wanted to continue competing, it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to do so. It just remains to be seen if, after stepping out of the cage with Koscheck and back into his day-to-day life, if that’s what Matt Hughes wants to do.