It’s a large chasm between liking a fighter and having respect for a fighter’s abilities. As a progressive existentialist atheistic liberal, it’s not very often that I come across an interview that leads me to believe I’d have a great deal in common with most MMA fighters (and often, when I do, the source of said interview makes me sick to my stomach). Matt Hughes – he of the racist apparel controversy and Christian/Republican affiliation (weird how often those go together) – is not a fighter that I like. But I respect him because HE’S THE MOST DOMINANT WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION IN THE HISTORY OF MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. GSP will probably take that title, but it’s not his yet – Hughes defended his belt five times before losing to Penn, then beat GSP for the belt and defended it twice more, beating Joe Riggs and Royce Gracie in between Frank Trigg and avenging the loss to BJ. The last time Matt Hughes lost to a fighter not named BJ Penn or Georges St Pierre at 170 was before 9/11 (Alves missed weight). Reread that last sentence. One more time. Wow.
You’d think that would earn the guy a little currency in the bank of MMA fans. Nope:
We’ve seen one bully confronted, back down this month and now a fun situation is developing between Matt Hughes and the fellas at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. Does it mean another “retirement” on the way? Probably not. It’s doubtful that Hughes will walk away from the sport like Quinton Jackson did because he’s getting beating up verbally, but the former welterweight champ needs to save face and challenge one of the three AKA fighters who are calling him out. Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Mike Swick are legit top 10 UFC welterweights and it’s getting to the point where they’re laughing at Hughes.
I’m sorry, when did it become incumbent upon Matt Hughes to prove something to AKA? Matt Hughes is 35 years old and has 51 professional fights (44-7 record) – he’s tied with Randy Couture for the most title fight wins in UFC history (nine) and Anderson Silva for the most consecutive defenses (five). His recent slide into… hell, top five territory?… was the direct result of the #1 reason I respect Hughes: consistently fighting the best fighters he could. So many champions – the two names appearing prevalently in my mind right now are Frank Shamrock and Fedor Emelyanenko – have decided to protect their legacy by retiring or fighting unworthy opponents whilst at the top, and I’m supposed to hate on Matt Hughes for trying to have a few interesting, lucrative fights between now and the sunset of his career? Fucking ridiculous.
Matt Hughes can fight whoever the hell he wants. He doesn’t owe the AKA boys or Paul Daley (I’d be careful if I were Semtex – I hear Hughes has a pretty decent ground game) or Steve Cofield or anyone else anything – he’s earned his farewell tour as far as I’m concerned. He did nothing but fight the best (give or take the Gracie fight) until it became clear that he had been eclipsed. I can’t really ask anything more of a fighter.
Although smarter politics and less bigotry would be nice.