It was supposed to be the comeback for Matt Hughes. It was supposed to be his opportunity to show that he had not lost a step. It was believed this was his time to shine against a younger opponent. But for Matt Hughes, the most dominant welterweight in UFC history, it was not to be. Hughes was once again beaten, and beaten badly by Thiago Alves; a younger and stronger fighter at UFC 85 on Saturday in England, bringing into question whether Hughes should continue to fight, or hang up his gloves once and for all.
In most sports, and especially MMA, it is that ‘what have you done for me lately’ mentality, and in the case of Hughes, the answer is – not much. In his last 6 bouts, he has been dominated in 3 matches, decisioned Chris Lytle a year and a half ago, beat a BJ Penn who was so out of shape come the third round he could barely stand up and defeated an aging Royce Gracie.
People argue that Hughes is only 34 years of age and Randy Couture was 43 when he won the heavy weight title, so surely he has plenty of time left. In most sports, age is a tremendous barometer, but probably less relevant in MMA. The reason? In most sports, athletes will have played and practiced in roughly the same amount of games as their counterpart. A 35 year old hockey player, for example will have played approximately the same number of games as his competitor, so from one to the next, that 35 year old NHLer is usually comparable. The same cannot be said for combat sports, where it is about how many times you have fought and who against.
If you want to compare Hughes to Couture, (and some have been) then we can. Randy has 24 pro MMA fights over an 11 year span and began fighting pro when he was 34. This equals out to 2.2 fights a year for 11 years. Hughes has fought in 49 fights and started when he was 25, which equals out to 5.4 fights a year for 9 years. So Couture at 44 has been through less inside the cage, mentally and physically that Hughes has. Much less.
But if all this retirement talk about aging superstars sounds familiar, it should. The same questions arose about Chuck Liddell after back to back losses last year, and critics were quick to write off Wanderlei Silva as over the hill after he lost 3 in a row. Both have rebounded with significant wins (Liddell’s over Silva, Silva over Keith Jardine) and are both quickly back in title contention. Overnight, they went from ‘has beens’ to superstars again.
But just like Silva and Liddell before him, Hughes should be given another opportunity. Because despite his struggles of late and the number of fights he’s had, Hughes can still compete. He will not likely regain his title and his dominance from 98-05, but few will ever duplicate that. Simply, he should be given the chance because he was one of the few names that carried the UFC for many years and deserves another fight.
It sounds like Matt Hughes would like a chance to fight former champ Matt Serra. This is a fight that has been brewing for some time one that should be ultra competitive. This reminds me of another big fight a few months back that some argued had been tarnished. And although it was a more important fight, critics suggested that planning the superfight of Chuck Liddel vs. Wanderlei Silva was meaningless after both had been beaten up in their last few fights, leading up to their Decemeber 29, 2007 battle. Well, we all know how that turned out, after they were given the chance.
And for the man who helped carry the UFC on his shoulders for many years, the future UFC hall of famer and most dominant welterweight of all time, Matt Hughes deserves to be given that very same chance.