Matt Hughes: A Country Boy Surviving

Ah, Matt Hughes. Just the sound of his name evokes thoughts of hunting, fishing, fraternity pranks, and yes, slamming dudes to the mat as hard as you can. Recently I had a chance to sit down with the UFC’s welterweight legend to talk about his final contract, why all these rapscallions want to fight him so badly, and whether or not he belongs in the hall of fame. You just signed a new contract with the UFC. It seems like all these young guys want to fight you – Koscheck called you out after UFC 103, and even Mike Swick has made noises about fighting you. Where do you think all these challenges are coming from?

Matt Matt Hughes: Oh, I think it’s just young kids in the sport who want to beat someone who has had the title before. That’s what I think it is. I don’t have any problems with Koscheck or Swick. They’re just guys who want to beat someone who has been in the sport for awhile, to beat someone who has held the belt.

To be honest, I don’t blame them. If I were them, I would want to fight someone like me, someone who has been in the sport and someone who has some notoriety. But the difference with me is that I wouldn’t be so public about it. That’s the difference between me and them. At UFC 103, we saw some fresh faces coming up – Paul Daley beating Kampmann, Vitor Belfort beating Rich Franklin. Do you plan on throwing a monkey wrench into their plans?

Matt Hughes: Well, I just signed a four fight deal. But I’m not telling you I’m going fight all four fights, either. It’s one of those things where the UFC wants to keep me tied up, so if I were to go into retirement after two or three fights and another fight came up, they would have me under contract and I couldn’t go and fight for somebody else.

I don’t know what I’m going to do next in the sport, to be honest. I don’t know how many fights I’ll take. I could fight these four fights and then sign another contract. It depends on how I feel.

I don’t know. There’s a point in time when you do have to step down and take a step back from the sport. You can do something different than competing. Maybe it’s coaching or running camps, or managing and promoting. There are other things to do in the sport besides just fighting.

As far as who I fight next? You know, looking at these younger kids who are wanting to come in and be the next world champion or be the next contender, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know if I’ll take on those guys.

There are plenty of older guys out there with big names who can fight, too. I like to take fights where I’ve got something to win. If I take a fight against Mike Swick or Josh Kosheck, I’ve really got nothing to gain from that fight besides a paycheck and beating somebody up. They’ve got more to win than I do. Those aren’t the kinds of fights that interest me.

Royce Gracie was a big fight, you know? It was a huge name, a guy that had won the old tournaments in the beginning. Those are the fights I like, the ones I can really get revved up for and get motivated. Those are the kinds of fights that gets me into the gym ready to train and work. You just mentioned being motivated. You’ve done everything. When you will you be in the Hall of Fame? And what fight do you see on the horizon that could potentially motivate Matt Hughes?

Matt Hughes: I’m in the middle of discussions with the UFC on a few upcoming fights, but I’d rather not release anything because I don’t know if it’ll happen.

As far as the Hall of Fame goes, it’s not something I ask about. If they put me in the Hall, then great. I’ve never been a chaser, where I’m chasing records or accolades. If they put me in the Hall, great.

If they have others they want to put in, guys like Chuck Liddell, that’s fine. I’ll just keep fighting. Dennis Hallman was recently signed by the company and a lot of people have mentioned his name as a potential opponent for you. Is that something you’re interested in?

Matt Hughes: I’m not saying that’s one of the names discussed, but I’m not saying it isn’t. That’s a possibility. I’ve seen lots of people talking about me fighting Frank Trigg, but I don’t think anyone within the UFC is interested in seeing that again. Would a fight with Hallman motivate you?

Matt Hughes: It might. I lost to him, but I’ve gone on and done bigger and better things since then. It just seems like I was the only guy he could ever beat. He just hasn’t done much except for beating Matt Hughes twice.

That’s what I dislike about that fight. Who else has he beat? The last time he beat me was in 1999. We’re talking ten years or so since he last beat me, and he hasn’t done anything since. Are we ever going to see your brother fight?

Matt Hughes: I don’t really know what’s going on with Mark. I don’t think he’s ever going to fight, and if he does it definitely won’t be in the UFC.

Mark just doesn’t like to train, to be perfectly honest. He competed in the sport and got to a competition level where he had to start training, but it just didn’t work out for him once he hit that level. He’s a very strong, big, powerful guy, but when he goes up against someone more technical than him, he has problems. I wouldn’t look for him in the UFC or anywhere else.

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