09-23-2010, 05:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Basketball Capital of the World
This is a GREAT article! Really get to hear Matt's thoughts on the BJ fights.
Hughes answers the call to fight, prepares for third crack at B.J. Penn
UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes was planning to take the rest of the year off when he answered the call a week ago.
UFC president Dana White was offering a rubber match against B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn on Nov. 20 at UFC 123 in Detroit.
“We’re all creatures of habit and I’m used to just kind of doing whatever the UFC says and I’m happy with that,” Hughes told The Canadian Press on Saturday. “Dana surely knew that I wanted to take the fall off, but he called.
“And he asked. He said ‘Hey, will you take the fight?’ He didn’t say ‘Hey, do you want the fight,’ he said ‘Will you?’ So I said yes. UFC’s been very good to me and I want to be the same person back to them.”
Detroit was also an attractive option. A Midwest city, it will probably be Hughes territory and it’s close enough to his home in Hillsboro, Ill., that people — including wife Audra who doesn’t like to fly — can drive to the fights.
For the UFC, it’s also a border city, with easy access to the huge Canadian MMA audience.
After accepting the matchup — the co-main event of the Palace at Auburn Hills card topped a battle of ex-light-heavyweight champions in Quinton (Rampage) Jackson and Lyoto (The Dragon) Machida — Hughes went on a planned elk hunt in Colorado.
Hughes (45-7) has made a career of saying yes to fights. And the former welterweight champion figured he could fit the Penn bout in before his schedule back home got crowded come the end of the year.
“The more I thought about the more I thought you know, I like it that I’m still kind of in shape so I can just kind of continue,” he said. “Just like I took the Almeida fight after Gracie, I was halfway in shape, I never really got out of shape. So it worked out good.”
The 36-year-old fighting farmer has won three straight: Ricardo Almeida via first-round submission at UFC 117 on Aug. 7, Renzo Grazie by third-round TKO at UFC 112 in April 10 and Matt Serra via unanimous decision at UFC 98 in May 2009.
Penn (15-7-1) has dropped back-to-back decisions to Frankie Edgar, losing his lightweight title at UFC 112 and then the rematch Aug. 28 at UFC 118.
Hughes, on his website, wrote he thought Penn didn’t look himself in the second fight.
The 31-year-old Penn is often a fighting enigma, but Hughes is operating on the basis that the Hawaiian will be in good shape having fought so recently and that he will be very motivated to win the rubber match.
“You never know who you’re going to get (when you fight B.J.) but I am fully aware that I’m going to face the best B.J. out there,” he said.
Hughes was downright dismissive of Penn when the Hawaiian elected to move up from 155 to 170 pounds for their first meeting at UFC 46 in January 2004.
But Hughes found himself in trouble early when he went down, losing his balance seemingly on a loose takedown attempt.
“I ended up in my back, which was fine, but B.J. did a very good job in that fight,” Hughes said. “He threw my legs past him and then came down with a big hard punch. And that’s really what rocked me and let him get his submission.
“I didn’t expect B.J., No. 1, to defend my (takedown) shots and, No. 2, I didn’t expect B.J. to be that aggressive on top of me.”
Penn won by rear naked choke in the first round, memorably kissing a bloody Hughes after the fight and then licking off the blood that had been transferred to his face.
Penn broke down in tears after having the championship belt wrapped around his waist.
Hughes was at the other end of the emotional spectrum.
“I took that loss pretty hard, because I really thought I would go in there and just walk through B.J.,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t shoot (for the takedown) real hard. I just thought I was going to go in, take him down to the ground and the ref would stop me after a matter of seconds from punching him. I just thought the whole weight class (thing) of him moving up to my weight class, I thought I was going to be just way too strong for him, and this and that.
“I had to take a little time and sit back and tell myself ‘You know, you just got beat by a guy who just bucked up weight classes’ and this and that. I had to focus a little bit after that fight, but in the end I think the loss was good for me.”
The rematch, at UFC 63 in September 2006, was an exciting cut-and-thrust affair with Penn looking very sharp in the first two rounds, almost stopping Hughes at the end of the second with a triangle-armbar attempt.
A different Penn — tired and tentative — came out in the third and Hughes moved in for the kill.
“I could feel his battery draining in the second round,” he recalled. “It’s one of those things when you see someone like that, it just motivates you even more to do some damage.
“It’s kind of a like a shark, when he smells blood he really goes for people and that’s one of the things I feed off of. I see weakness, it makes me more aggressive.”
Hughes got Penn on the ground and trapped his arms, so his head was defenceless. Hughes hit it more than 40 times before the referee stepped in.
“When people ask me what are my most memorable fights, I always say B.J. 2 because I was able to overcome the loss that really kind of shocked me, from being the world champion. B.J. 2 is a big fight for me.”
Both men have been pillars for the UFC. Penn is 11-6-1 in the Octagon, Hughes is 18-5.