Quad City Times – Sean Moeller
Hughes to fight legendary Gracie in UFC battle of the ages
By Sean Moeller – Quad City Times

Teddy Duchamp ponders the dream matchup of Superman vs. Mighty Mouse in “Stand By Me.” National Basketball Association historians and stat hogs salivate over the impossible Wilt Chamberlain-Shaquille O’Neal clash in the paint. And, there’s an endlessly energetic discourse regarding the merits of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in their primes.

Answers to the questions of who would win these era-hopping battles aren’t attainable, just argued and speculated.

As improbability goes, the “monumental” fight that Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White announced last Monday night from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during the broadcast of the live Ultimate Fight Night 3 event on Spike TV, always has been probable.

Miletich Fighting Systems’ Matt Hughes, the UFC’s finest welterweight champion of all-time, is only 7 years younger than 39-year-old Royce Gracie, a mixed martial arts revolutionary, who infused Brazilian jiujitsu into the sport during the formative years of the UFC. Message boards have guessed at the outcome of a meeting between Hughes and Gracie, and, in May, they’ll finally have an answer, albeit one that still will be subjective.

Hughes is in the prime of his career, and Gracie hardly can qualify as being an active fighter — stepping into a cage just once a year in each of the past three years and fighting only five times since 1995. His record of two wins, two draws and one loss suggests a fighter who has seen better days. It’s a feeling that Hughes verbalized to a national television audience Monday and echoed from Las Vegas’ McCarron International Airport on Tuesday.

“He’s definitely not too old, but I think he’s definitely behind the times,” Hughes said. “He’s not well-rounded. When he was fighting, you could be a good grappler and win. You could be a good striker and win. Now everybody does everything. I have many ways to win. I’m not worried. I think he’s stubborn. All of the Gracie fighters are stubborn. They’re hard-headed. They’ve always said that their way’s the best way. It’s another reason I wanted to take this fight — to show that the Gracie way isn’t the best way.

“The Gracie fighters are all really pro-Gracie. We’re (the Miletich camp) not saying we’re the best, but we like to bring it all together. I go to other gyms to learn things. A Gracie would never go to another gym to learn.”

Hughes didn’t have to be convinced to take this fight — his first since submitting Joe Riggs with a kimura arm bar at UFC 56 in November.

“I loved this fight as soon as I heard about it. Dana White called me four days ago and said, ‘I’ve got you a fight with Royce Gracie,’ and all I asked was, ‘When?’ It was the only question I had,” he said. “I love the matchup, and I love that he’s a legend in the sport. I’ve never fought a legend before. I’m really excited about this fight. It’s a no-lose situation for me.”

Gracie, at the announcement Monday night, declared, “This is my house. I built it.” The hall of famer, however, will be returning to his “house” to find the fighter, considered by a long list as the sport’s greatest in any class, waiting for him.

“I’m going to try very hard for this fight,” Hughes said. “A lot of people are telling me that I’m going to have my way with him and I see it that way too.”