A Country Boy Can Survive: Matt Hughes Will Make One More Run at UFC Welterweight Gold
Matt Hughes epitomizes his signature walkout music, “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams, Jr. This is a man that has tasted both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a career that dates back to 1998. With his recent win against Ricardo Almeida being his forty-fifth win out of fifty-two professional fights, and his third win in a row, Matt Hughes continues to prove that he’s got a whole lot of gas left in his tank, despite earlier calls for him to retire given his two back-to-back and quite humbling losses to Georges St. Pierre in 2007 and Thiago Alves in 2008. Now a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, I think Hughes is destined for another Welterweight Title shot for one simple reason: because he doesn’t want it anymore.
If his post-fight interview after submitting Ricardo Almeida is any indication, Hughes has adopted the same mentality that has led to Randy Couture being able to still compete at a high level despite his age: he knows he has nothing left to prove, and simply wants to fight to stay competitive. He jokingly referenced that being in the UFC Hall of Fame but still actively competing put some pressure on him, but he seems to be taking it in stride. In the past, Hughes had put so much pressure on himself and been so obsessed with getting (and keeping) the UFC Welterweight Championship that it eventually caused him to overlook opponents. I know it seems paradoxical that having no championship aspirations is beneficial to your career, but for Matt Hughes, this is actually a great mentality for him to have.
I don’t want to say that Hughes doesn’t care anymore, though. Of course he cares. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be fighting anymore. I have no doubt about that. It’s just that his focus has shifted. Instead of constantly being in pursuit of the Welterweight championship, Hughes seems to be focused on seeing how long he can compete at an elite level, just to prove that he can. He knows that his legacy is set in stone, and because of this he can start having a little fun, which comes in the form of trying crazy things like the submission he used to choke out Almeida (which I don’t think anyone saw coming). With relatively little pressure, and with a willingness to try things he wouldn’t try before because he was too focused on winning, Matt’s natural ability will continue to shine through.
That’s why I think one more UFC Welterweight Championship opportunity is in store for Matt Hughes. He no longer needs the belt to cement his legacy, but he’s still one of the best Welterweights in the UFC, as well as one of the best Welterweights in history. In the here and now, with a three-fight win-streak against some excellent competition, Matt Hughes is only a few fights away from getting one more shot at the gold. I won’t say “one last” because honestly, who can tell in today’s crazy MMA landscape? If 2010 has proved anything, it’s that no man is unbeatable in MMA. With a fresh attitude, some of the best wrestling and Ground and Pound ever seen in the UFC, and with the willingness to go out and try something he’s never tried before just for the hell of it, I firmly believe that Matt Hughes is right in the middle of one of the biggest comebacks we’ll ever see in Mixed Martial Arts.
And what do you think, fans and friends? Is Hughes destined to hold the UFC Welterweight Championship one more time, or is it time for him to retire? Also, what are some opponents that you’d like to see Matt Hughes face in order to prove that he’s ready for another shot at the gold? I literally just cried how proud I am to read this.. Well put..