My Tribute/Reflection on Matt's Career
I haven't posted in a while and I know that Matt's retirement is "old news" now. But, I still wanted to write this little piece.
Most general fans of the UFC or MMA in general will probably remember the career or legacy of Matt Hughes in terms of wins/losses, championships, title defenses, epic matches, rivalries, etc.
But, I think that the most defining thing I will take away from Matt Hughes' career and what I will always tell people 30-40-50 years down the road is that I have never known of a professional athlete with so much humility, class, and someone who truly never forgot where they came from.
I can still recall the story of Matt driving to UFC 68 to fight Lytle and he stopped at one of the forum member's houses who had made signs of support and spent a few minutes with he and his family. They became friends.
I remember a story that I read on the forum way way back when Matt and Tim Sylvia (I believe) stopped to change someone's tire on the side of the road.
At the opening of the HIT Squad, Matt and Mark invited all of the forum folks to a bonfire. During the bonfire I asked Matt if he knew a kid that had played hoops for Hillsboro HS years ago and sure enough, he responded "Oh yeah, he graduated around '99." (I follow my own high school's sports fairly closely and I definitely don't know people who graduated 8-10 years after I did)
Logging into the website I'd see NateR's pictures of Matt doing work on the farm, helping to build an orphanage, or participating in local festivities in Hillsboro.
Couple all of these things with the fact that through his fan interaction he built a community of people that truly became like a family via this forum. Over the last 6 or 7 years, every one of his fights became like a pilgrimage for the forum faithfuls. And, the Hughes entourage never tried to shy away from the forum-ites. We were always invited to most everything and the "welcome" mat was always there every step of the way.
So, that's how I will reflect on the career and legacy of Matt Hughes when I tell people years from now about the guy who dominated the welterweight division in the first half of the new millennium. It will never be about the win/losses or the titles/defenses, it will be about the person.
To Matt, thanks for the entertainment and a great career. But, mostly, thanks for your care and interest in your fans and for being the example that all professional athletes should follow.
Best of luck in your future endeavors!
And, to the forum faithfuls - for those whom I've met and had the privilege to spend time with, thank-you for being like a "family." I always go away saddened because it's so much fun to hang with you guys.