Here is a non hypothetical question, forum members. I know that quite a few of us have had the crazy awesome honor of meeting Matt on at least one occasion. This is the place to share and relive those bomb memories! Could even get a sticky if there is a ton of story sharing going on and a mod saw fit. Pictures are more than welcome! Also, feel free to share any time that you have got to hang out with the WW GOAT and not just the first experience, if you've got to meet him on multiple occasions.
I'll start this party!
I have only been able to meet Matt Hughes on 1 occasion and never had the privilege to get to watch him fight in person. But I do feel very special that I got to attend the H.I.T. Squad grand opening and that's the story Im going to share with you guys now....
Let me start by telling ya'll that I live in a small town in south central, Kentucky. I had been reading rather frequently and posting very occasionally on this message board for quite a while when the news broke out that Matt and some partners were going to open their own gym. I was about 20 years old at the time and would day dream while at work of being to Matt Hughes what Matt himself had been to Pat Miletich. Even though I had never wrestled in school or taken as much as a single Karate class, I would just imagine and day dream of training at the gym under Matt's tutelage day in and day out until the day came that he was in my corner when I won the UFC light weight title. LOL!
I had discussed with a friend of mine about how Matt was opening up his own gym and was going to have a grand opening ceremony. We just kind of tossed around the idea of taking the trip and actually going. One of us finally said "yeah we are gonna go!" The other dismissively agreed not believing that it would be a plan that was actually followed through on. A few weeks pass and then it's the day before the grand opening. I worked a full 8 hour shift and got off and went the restaurant near my work where my friend was working. As soon as I see her she asks "so are you ready to go tonight?" It took me a few minutes to realize what she was talking about because I had assumed that she didn't really have intentions on actually going. I don't let her know this and let out an enthusiastic "of course!" Then I ran home, took a shower and packed a bag to go meet my friend so that we could head out on our 6 hour journey to Granite City, Illinois.
The trip was rather uneventful, just casual chatter between us and listening to some good tunes on the radio. We arrived at our hotel, which I believe was right out side of Granite City, at around 6:30 am the day of the grand opening and go right to bed after setting an alarm clock. As soon as we wake up the next day we rush through taking a shower and getting ready for the grand opening, having no idea what to expect. On the drive there I start to think about how the grand opening may go down. I assumed Matt would probably either be behind a barricade or he may come out on a stage or be sitting at a table like celebrities do at a lot of meet and greet type events.
When we pulled into the parking lot, we just kind of marvel at how really cool the sign is and take pictures of each other in front of the building and with Matt's TUF Hummer and his motorcycle that was there. We start walking around out side and kind of stumble into this tent looking area set up with some people giving One More Round stickers away and selling a magazine with Matt on the cover. I buy a magazine and right after my purchase, my friend grabs my arm and says "Lee, Matt Hughes is right there behind you!"
I think she must be mistaken because surely Matt would be inside behind some barricade or table out of reach of the general public that was there, but nope! She was right! Matt was right there and I was very much so star struck. I didn't expect to see my favorite fighter just walking around mingling with everyone so I was really surprised.
After just a few moments of waiting around as Matt was talking with other people, I got my chance to talk to him. Now, I know some people may meet celebrities pretty regularly or have met other fighters before, but Matt was the first fighter or celebrity at all that I was able to meet. And he really set the standard very high for others that I got to meet in the future because he was so cool and down to earth to meet. I simply congratulated Matt on opening his gym and explained how he had been the entire reason I started watching fights and that he was my favorite fighter. He was very warm and receptive, took the time to sign my magazine, a copy of his autobiography that I had brought with me from home, and the TapouT shirt that I had on. We took pictures both as a group, Matt, my friend and I, and my friend and I both took individual pictures with Matt. We then thanked him for his time and went in to check out the gym. The H.I.T. Squad gym was really cool. In the gym we talked with Matt some more in the very few moments he wasn't swarmed. We also got to meet Mark Hughes, Robbie Lawler, Matt Pena, Marc Fiore, and Tommy Speer. The entire group could not have been friendlier and great to meet.
After meeting Boomer at the gym and exchanging phone numbers, my friend and I were invited to the after party bonfire at the Hughes farm in Hillsboro, which was a blast and I was honored and blessed to have been able to attend. I won't go in to too much details on that as this post is running kind of long and I'm sure someone else here can share the goings on around the bonfire.
All in all, it was without a doubt worth every bit of the 6 hour drive. Meeting Matt was even better than I had hoped it would be. I have since been to a UFC fight night and a Strikeforce weigh in event where I was fortunate enough to meet quite a few champions and former champions, but meeting my favorite fighter, Matt Hughes, certainly and easily ranks head and shoulders above the rest.