In a lengthy interview with Iowa's Daily Gate CIty, UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes relates that he started MMA as a hobby.
“I wrestled through high school and college and I still wanted to compete somehow when I got done wrestling, so I took this sport up just as a hobby,” said Matt Hughes. “I never thought I’d be real good at it. I never thought I would be a world champion. I definitely never thought that I could support a family with the income from fighting. It was 100 percent hobby. I kept fighting and did well enough to keep going and eventually won the world title.”
On Nov. 2, 2001 at UFC 34 an unconscious Hughes crashed to the matt, knocking out then Champion Carlos Newton, and waking himself up in the process. If he had lost, he would have retired.
“If I would have lost that fight, I would have stepped away and retired,” Hughes said. “I would have went back to the family farm and probably be in the combine right now cutting beans or hauling beans. I won that fight and it kept me in it. It was that defining moment where I thought, ‘I’m done with this hobby,’ but I won the fight and I kept going forward.”
“After you win the world title things change a little bit. You have more security. I was able to defend it a few times after that, so it gave me more and more security in the sport, so that is why I stayed with it.”
And how did he do it?
“I go back to my roots — working on a family farm where my dad had me doing heavy lifting every day. Because of that, I think I was one of the strongest in the weight class and that was because of the family farm,” Hughes said. “The other thing was growing up with a twin brother. I learned to compete young. Mark and I were always competing against each other. I’m a competitor. Even today, I find myself competing against my brother.
“Those two things — the family farm and growing up with a twin brother — made me who I am.”
And how do you follow in his footsteps?
“A lot of young guys ask me, ‘How do you do well in a sport.’ I answer with this and I believe it. Number one, you have to have a good trainer. I had Pat Miletich and Jeremy Horn and a bunch guys at the Miletich camp that helped me out — getting my skills and perfecting my skills inside the cage,” Hughes said. “Number two would be to have a good manager and I had Monte Cox. He is still probably the best manager out there today. He really got me to where I was going to be. He knew everybody in the world, so him getting my matches for me really helped me out.
“Those two people — Pat Miletich and Monte Cox — got me to the world title and got me my wins. Not only did Monte put me there, but Pat’s training helped me win.”
How it feels to lose?
“When somebody asks me about the competition I faced and how good they were, the first thing I think about is the losses that I had,” Hughes said. “I had some losses that were against some good guys. GSP is probably the best all around fighter I ever faced. B.J. Penn in the first round is probably the best fighter. In the first round, B.J. can just about beat anybody. You really have to wear on him to beat him down, but B.J. is a great first round fighter.
“Those two guys are always on top of the list, probably because they beat me and probably because they beat me twice.”
Is he done?
“I’ve not announced my retirement, but right now it looks like I’m fully retired,” Hughes said. “The UFC still treats me well so I can be retired. It’s just funny, when God puts you on a road, you don’t know where you are going. I have all the faith that he put me there, and I have to thank him from that.”
Does he want to step into a commentating role for the UFC?
“A lot of people ask me about commentating, but I just don’t have the gift of gab to fill that air time,” Hughes said. “I don’t want to talk when I don’t have anything to say.
Does he still train?
“I do train a little bit. When B.J. or Robbie Lawler need a little help, I’ll go and help them train. That’s about it. I love to train, but as far as having a gym where you have to live in it, I would rather live with my family. I want to raise my kids more than coaching. I do some stints on coaching, but I’ve got other things I want to do.”
What does he do day to day now?
“I’ve got a hunting show, which I love, on The Outdoor Channel. I’ll stay with the hunting show. I like to travel. I like to hunt, so that suits me well,” Hughes said. “I’m helping my brother with the family farm. Right now, he is in the combine cutting beans. I still am very close to the family farm.
“It’s funny, when I was a kid I couldn’t wait to get off the farm or stop working. Now, I live real close to the farm, and I go to bed at night thinking about what I’m going to do at the farm the next day. I’m not happy until the next morning when my feet hit the ground and I’m going to the farm. I can’t wait to work.”
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