Ex-champ Matt Hughes says busy UFC schedule 'too commercial' these days

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC

Dann StuppFormer and longtime UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes looks back on his fighting days as the “golden age” of the sport.

These days, though, the UFC’s busy schedule is “too commercial,” he said, and makes each event feel a little less special.

Hughes discussed current-day MMA while a guest on “Undeniable with Joe Buck.” The segment for the DirecTV and AUDIENCE Network interview show (debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT) was filmed in March – a few months before a horrific truck-train collision left Hughes in a medically induced coma and fighting for his life.

The 44-year-old UFC Hall of Famer, who’s one of MMA’s all-time greats, is still on the mend as part of a remarkable recovery, but prior to the accident, he spoke to Buck about his career. It spanned from 1998-2011 – from UFC 22 to UFC 135 – and according to Hughes, it was a special time for the sport.

“I think it’s too commercial,” Hughes said of modern-day UFC. “They’ve got fights darn near every week (on) one of the three channels they’re on, and I think it’s too commercial. I am so happy that timing worked out for me where I fought when I did. I really think that I fought in the golden ages.

“I started at UFC 22, and I don’t even know what my last one was – around (UFC) 110 or 115 or something – but I think I was in the golden ages. It was when people got together to watch the UFC. It wasn’t – because they’re so often now.”

The year Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC) made his promotional debut – 1999 – saw the UFC host just six events all year. The first year he won a title – 2001 – the UFC hosted five shows.

This year, though? Between pay-per-view, FS1/FS2, FOX and UFC Fight Pass, the organization is hosting 39 events across the globe, including a debut in mainland China with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 122 lineup in Shanghai.

“They’re just not as special,” Hughes said.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Why is Georges St-Pierre a big deal? 5 fights that defined a UFC legend

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Take heed, fight fans. The return of Georges St-Pierre in a middleweight title fight with Michael Bisping at UFC 217 on Saturday is nigh at hand.

If, like me, you’re wondering why that doesn’t seem like a bigger deal to more people, maybe it’s time to consider a lot has changed in the four years since St-Pierre last fought, and those changes might include some serious shifts in the fanbase.

For instance, you could have first discovered an interest in MMA midway through your freshman year, gotten gradually more into it during your sophomore and junior years, then graduated as a wise and haggard senior all without ever having actually lived through a GSP fight.

You could have watched every moment of the last 161 UFC events, which would have taken roughly 1,000 hours of your life, and still never have seen the former longstanding welterweight champion in action.

What’s it to you if he’s coming back now? And if he’s so great, why doesn’t he have a bunch of fight-ending highlights floating around the internet? There’s not a single clip of him yelling at someone while throwing an energy drink at the guy’s head, so how important could he be?

All fair points (kind of). So here, let’s look back at the defining moments that made St-Pierre an MMA great – even if we have to peer into the non-HD vault of UFC fight footage to do it.

1. St-Pierre vs. Sean Sherk, UFC 56

It’s crazy to think GSP got his first crack at the UFC title in just his third fight with the promotion, and his eighth pro fight overall. What’s even crazier is that he lost, getting armbarred by Matt Hughes for the first loss of his career in a battle for the vacant 170-pound title belt.

It was a crushing blow for the 23 year-old St-Pierre, but a year later he was back near the top of the welterweight division, having reeled off four wins in a row. The last came against Sean Sherk, who would later become UFC lightweight champ, but on that night he was little more than a punching bag for a bigger, stronger GSP.

But what was really notable about the fight was what came after. During a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, St-Pierre literally got down on his knees and begged “UFC management” for another chance at the title. It succeeded in helping him stand out, especially since the very next fight on the card saw the champion Hughes defeat Joe Riggs via submission.

2. St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes II, UFC 65

In his rematch with the champion, St-Pierre vowed that he wouldn’t make the same mistake he did in the first fight. That mistake? “I gave him too much respect,” St-Pierre said.

He was already on the path to avoiding that error some two months before the fight, when he showed up at Hughes’ title defense against B.J. Penn at UFC 63 (a spot that was supposed to be St-Pierre’s before injury forced him out of the fight) and hugged the victorious champion before dropping one of his most famous lines.

“I’m very glad you won that fight, Matt,” St-Pierre said into the microphone. “But I’m not impressed with your performance.”

By St-Pierre standards, it was blisteringly severe trash talk. He would meet Hughes in the rematch two months later, and this time it was a different St-Pierre who showed up. Confident, aggressive, he attacked the champion with a diverse striking attack, dropping him with help from his signature Superman punch late in the first, then finishing him with a head kick followed by ground-and-pound early in the second.

At the time it felt like a monumental shift. After two long stints as champ, the first interrupted only briefly by a loss to Penn, Hughes felt like the welterweight champion of record for many MMA fans. Seeing him so easily dethroned seemed to mark the beginning of a new era – one that would continue for the better part of the next seven years, with only one brief pause …

Georges St-Pierre got revenge on Matt Serra but not before one of the most stunning upsets in MMA history.

3. St-Pierre vs. Matt Serra, UFC 69

Any conversation about the biggest upsets in MMA history must inevitably include GSP’s first fight with Serra, who came into the bout as a roughly 8-1 underdog and left as the UFC welterweight champion. This was the unthinkable in action. Serra had earned the shot by winning the welterweight division of a “comeback” season on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Coming into the bout, he seemed less like a threatening challenger and more like a man in possession of a certain kind of lottery ticket.

That all changed when Serra’s right hand found the sweet spot just behind St-Pierre’s ear. Soon the 13-1 favorite was stumbling like a newborn fawn, and Serra was swarming in for more. When the fight was finally stopped and the belt strapped around his waist, even Serra seemed to be in a state of shock.

As for GSP, he became obsessed with, in his words, “revenge.” He wanted nothing more than to beat Serra and reclaim his title. As he would later tell it, a sports psychiatrist he was working with compared his single-minded focus to a brick that was weighing him down day after day.

“He made me get a brick, and I wrote ‘Matt Serra’ on it, and he said, ‘When you are ready to release that brick and look to the future, you’re going to take this brick and throw it into the river.’ It sounds stupid, but that’s what I did,” St-Pierre said. “I think it helped me to release a lot of the negative energy that I had. Instead of focusing, I kept my eyes off of the goal. So now I’m focused again on the goal. I think this helped me a lot.”

After a decision win over Josh Koscheck, followed by a submission over Hughes in the rubber match for an interim title, St-Pierre got another shot at Serra almost exactly one year after their first fight. This time GSP took no chances. After touching gloves to start the fight, he immediately took Serra down and then began a systematic destruction that finally ended with a barrage of knees to the body of a downed and exhausted Serra late in the second round. He had avenged his only loss as champion. And he has yet to lose again.

Georges St-Pierre dominated B.J. Penn at UFC 94.

4. St-Pierre vs. B.J. Penn, UFC 94

GSP’s path to winning the title in the first place had gone straight through another former champion in Penn, who he narrowly defeated via split decision after being bloodied early on in a three-round fight at UFC 58. After Penn’s follow-up loss to Hughes, he returned to lightweight, where he soon won the vacant title before defending it against Sherk, who’d been stripped of the belt after testing positive for steroids in 2007.

But Penn couldn’t seem to forget about St-Pierre, and soon he was talking about going back up in weight for a champion-vs.-champion clash with the welterweight titleholder. The UFC apparently liked the idea enough to put more promotional muscle than usual behind the bout, including a new preview show called “UFC Primetime,” which showed both men’s preparations (though it also led to some criticism of Penn’s training habits and work ethic).

St-Pierre would dominate Penn in the fight, eventually forcing a corner stoppage at the end of the fourth round, but controversy soon followed. Penn and his team pointed toward a moment earlier in the fight, when one of GSP’s coaches – muay thai specialist and general guru Phil Nurse – appeared to rub Vaseline on St-Pierre’s chest between rounds.

Penn took his complaint to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which heard from just about everyone – including Penn’s mother – in a hearing on the matter. St-Pierre and his team insisted that any violation of the rules was accidental, but for a time the accusation threatened to stick to the champion. Other previous opponents popped up with complaints that GSP felt “greasy” during their fights, though it was hard to tell what was serious accusation and what was just sour grapes.

Ultimately, the NSAC took no action against St-Pierre, and Penn had to live with the lopsided loss. Though St-Pierre would go on to defend his title seven more times, the victory over Penn was his last stoppage win to date.

Georges St-Pierre eked out a controversial win over Johny Hednricks at UFC 167.

5. St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks, UFC 167

After going to his “dark place” to beat Nick Diaz in March 2013, St-Pierre returned in November to face a dangerous contender on a six-fight winning streak. Hendricks made for an interesting opponent because he seemed to pose a new kind of challenge for St-Pierre. His background as an NCAA national champion wrestler meant he wouldn’t be as easy to take down as past opponents like Diaz and Carlos Condit, and his string of knockout victories suggested he could hurt the champion on the feet.

In a lot of ways, Hendricks lived up to those promises. Over five close rounds, Hendricks seemed to hurt St-Pierre with strikes at several points, leaving his already bruise-prone face looking like a lump of spoiled fruit by the end.

Georges St-Pierre after UFC 167.

Still, two of the three judges saw it for St-Pierre, surprising many fans and fellow fighters who thought Hendricks had done enough to take the title. In the cage after the win, GSP threw more fuel on the fire. He was “stepping away” from the sport of MMA, he told Rogan. He refused to explain why, or to say if or when he might return.

At the ensuing post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White was livid. Much of his ire was directed at the judges and the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which he called “atrocious” and in need of an intervention from the governor’s office.

But as White ranted and raved – all before St-Pierre had arrived – he also complained about St-Pierre’s post-fight comments.

“He didn’t say he was going to retire,” White said of GSP. “He said, ‘I’m going to take some time off.’ You don’t just say, ‘Hey I’m going to take some time off, maybe I’ll be back, maybe I won’t.’ You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again, unless you’re going to retire.”

St-Pierre, however, was resolute. He’d made up his mind. Having his boss scream at him while he was out of the room didn’t seem to soften his stance any.

“I’ve being fighting for a very long time at a high level,” St-Pierre said. “It’s a lot of pressure. I’ve decided I need to take time off. I vacated my title for the respect of other competitors. One day, when I feel like it, I might come back. But right now, I need a break.”

And that was the last we saw of him in the UFC. Until now.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Hospital honors nurses who cared for UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes after train accident

UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes struggled to contain his emotion as the nurse described his journey to recovery.

On Tuesday, Hughes, 43, returned to the hospital that treated him following a horrific truck-train collision in June. He was there to attend a private ceremony for nurses Ashley Hull and Megan Simpson, who were honored for going above and beyond following the accident.

“My family and friends have told me that the entire team at St. John’s was really good to me and all of them,” Hughes said in a release posted by HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill. “It means the world to me. Thank you all so very much.”

Hull and Simpson, who work in St. John’s intensive care unit, both received the nationally recognized DAISY Award, which honors extraordinary nurses. They were nominated by Hughes’ longtime friend Tony Zucca, who’s updated fans on the UFC Hall of Famer’s comeback since the accident.

“Being able to be a small part of Matt’s miraculous recovery is nothing short of amazing,” said Hull, a fan of Hughes from his days in the UFC. “Matt, Audra, Tony and the rest of his family and friends are all an inspiration to me, and the absolute perfect example of why I became a nurse. Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough. I am honored and humbled to have been his nurse.”

Hughes was placed in a medically induced coma with a brain bleed after his truck crossed a set of railroad tracks near rural Raymond, Ill., directly in front of an oncoming train. Pat Miletich, his longtime teammate and coach, speculated Hughes was trying to beat a long wait for the train and spun his wheels on the gravel prior to the tracks.

Initially, there were conflicting reports of Hughes’ recovery before he took a turn for the better. According to the hospital, he was transferred to an outside facility in Springfield, Ill., as his condition improved. Two months after the accident, he was awake and getting some sushi with Zucca, and then on the mats doing jiu-jitsu with him.

“Ashley Hull and Megan Simpson were blessings in the middle of a nightmare,” Zucca wrote in his letter nominating the nurses. “While everyone at St. John’s was wonderful, these two nurses simply went above and beyond and brought as much peace and calm to our lives that was humanly possible. They were extremely patient and knowledgeable with our countless questions; they would bring coffee when our eyes couldn’t stay open a minute longer. And the professionalism they displayed instilled confidence in us in that we knew Matt was in great hands.

“They are masters of their craft and the most caring nurses I have ever encountered. Matt has a long road ahead of him, and I can say with certainty that the family wishes Ashley and Megan could stick with us every step of the way. St. John’s should be proud of employing people of their caliber.”

The hospital’s president and CEO also gave Hughes a crucifix that hangs in all of the patients’ rooms.

“Being a nurse means stepping into the lives of strangers and allowing them to lean on you in their darkest hours,” said Simpson. “It is a great honor that Matt’s family and friends trusted me to care for him. Accepting the DAISY Award from the Hughes family and Tony Zucca is something I truly will never forget. Seeing Matt healthy and thriving is exactly the reason why I love being a critical care nurse.”

Hughes was contemplating a comeback to MMA when the accident occurred.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

What happens when you pay a fighter to retire? What happens when you stop?

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Buried in a 58-page pitch to potential investors was a plan for the UFC’s future that former fighters like Chuck Liddell might have been very interested to read. That plan included ways to increase profits through various “cost-saving opportunities,” such as tightening up certain “compensation practices.”

One such practice? The use of “long-lived consultants.”

That was in the summer of 2016, right around the time the UFC was sold to WME-IMG following weeks of denials, both to the public and internally to employees, about rumors of a sale.

Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Liddell had been retired for roughly six years by that point, all of which he’d spent on the UFC payroll. That seemed to be a big part of the reason he retired when he did. Following Liddell’s third straight knockout loss, UFC President Dana White urged his longtime friend to hang up the gloves, and he succeeded with help from the promise of a perpetual paycheck for a do-nothing gig as a UFC “executive.”

It was the first time the UFC had paid one of its stars to perform the service of not fighting, but it wouldn’t be the last. Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes would also wind up retiring to take a similar gig (“one of those Chuck Liddell jobs,” he said once years earlier, while discussing the prospect of retirement and rubbing his hands together at the thought) in 2013.

Former “TUF” winner and light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin also got a similar role, as did former interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

For the moment, at least, Griffin and Nogueira still have their jobs; Liddell and Hughes don’t. Perhaps not coincidentally, Griffin and Nogueira are both known for actually doing stuff relating to their jobs, while both Liddell and Hughes seemed intent on driving home the point that they were collecting checks for what they had done, and not what they were doing.

Still, for a time this system worked. It offered a solution to a problem. Pro fighters are notorious for not knowing when to quit. While promoters can refuse to give them any more fights, they can’t stop a competitor from stepping up with an offer to fill the void. If you care enough about an aging fighter’s health or legacy – or you just want to keep him out of the hands of another promoter – paying him to do nothing is an effective strategy.

Trouble is, it’s also expensive. The old Zuffa might have been willing to eat that cost, but the new regime was less enthusiastic. So what’s a guy like Liddell supposed to do now?

He seems to be asking himself the same question. On a recent episode of “The MMA Hour,” Liddell admitted he’d been caught by surprise when the UFC job that was supposed to be his for life suddenly evaporated.

“Life changes,” Liddell said. “And I think at first I took it a little hard, but now I look at it as a blessing in disguise. It’s got me re-motivated to go out and find what I really want to do.”

That’s where it gets tricky. The whole reason the UFC was paying Liddell was because it worried that what he might really want to do is fight some more.

Now Liddell is 47. His last win was nearly 10 years ago, but that’s not a significant barrier to entry in today’s MMA landscape. Over in Bellator, the home of MMA’s senior tour, company president Scott Coker says Liddell would need “a battery of tests” before he could fight. Then again, when you’ve already promoted a fight between Dada 5000 and Kimbo Slice, you might have to forgive people for assuming that your medical standards aren’t that high.

If Liddell did come out of retirement for Bellator, there’s Chael Sonnen, beckoning him to join in a prolonged debate to be followed by a show of geriatric athletics for the enrichment of all parties involved. There, too, is old friend Tito Ortiz, who Liddell probably still punches in his sleep on particularly restful nights.

And you could see why Liddell would be tempted to join them, couldn’t you? Especially if he feels like the UFC paid for what was left of his prime and then dumped him once it needed to cut costs.

You have to wonder how the UFC president would feel then, watching his old buddy back in the cage, but this time under another banner. It’s exactly the scenario White was trying to prevent, but in the end he might only succeed in delaying it.

Plus, no matter what you think of the practice of paying fighters to quit, the experiment seems to have a limited future. Who would trade whatever’s left of their career for a cushy UFC gig now, especially since there seems to be no better than a 50-50 chance of holding onto the job?

That leaves us right back where we started, with a stubborn problem that combat sports can’t quite solve. Old fighters, when confronted with the question of what they really want to do next, so often decide that it’s the thing they did last. If you’re looking for a different answer, it’s probably going to cost you.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Frank Trigg marvels at ex-UFC rival Matt Hughes' remarkable recovery from horrific accident

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Frank Trigg’s rivalry with Matt Hughes resulted in two UFC encounters and, years later, a UFC Hall of Fame induction.

More than 12 years after their second fight, Trigg (21-9 MMA, 2-5 UFC) says he and Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC), while casual friends, still have a lot they still don’t see eye-to-eye on. But seeing that the man who beat him twice in the octagon survived the battle of a lifetime following a scary accident, Trigg has nothing but awe and admiration for Hughes.

“I am so happy that he made it through,” Trigg told MMAjunkie Radio. “And that his wife still has a husband. His twin brother still has a brother. His son still has a dad. It is huge. You can’t say enough about this guy. And he’s going to pull it together. Whether you believe in a higher power or not – he always has.

“He’s always been that guy who always leans on Jesus Christ, always leans on God. Whatever his belief system is, it worked for him, because he survived this (expletive). If I was in that thing, I would have been dead. One hundred percent, I would not have survived that thing. And he made it through.”

A UFC Hall of Famer who’s highly regarded as one of the greatest 170-pound fighters in MMA history, Hughes was in delicate condition when the truck he was driving was hit by a train near rural Raymond, Ill., back in June. The retired fighter was found unconscious and airlifted to the hospital, where he was in a coma.

Since then, encouraging updates on Hughes’ progress have been shared by various people on social media. Recently, a friend posted a picture dubbing Hughes’ recovery “nothing short of a miracle.” And, on Monday night, we got to see footage of Hughes back on the mat.

Echoing the careful sentiment shared by Hughes’ sister in a previous update, Trigg understands there’s still a long, uncertain road ahead of his fellow ex-fighter. But judging by what his former foe showed so far, he’s encouraged.

“Now, is he fully back? No,” Trigg said. “Does he have a long road to go? Absolutely. He’s got a traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for six weeks or whatever, with a medically induced coma because of brain bleeding and brain swelling and all that stuff. Has he lost a bunch of weight, as the pictures showed? Of course, he was eating through a tube. He wasn’t chewing any of his own food, so he lost weight.

“Is he going to be able to grapple again or hit mitts again, or anything like that? We don’t know, we have to see that kind of game (note: the interview was conducted before the footage of Hughes grappling came out). But this fool survived a train accident and is trying to use the wheelchair with muscle atrophy. Trying to stand up and walk on his own. He’s a survivor.”

Trigg and Hughes were last seen in the octagon in April of 2005, at UFC 52, when a rear-naked choke by Hughes put an end to the rematch of a UFC 45 bout that had ended pretty much the same way. The fight, one of UFC president Dana White’s all-time favorites, was added to the promotion’s revamped Hall of Fame in 2015.

A lot has happened since. Now 43, Hughes fought another 12 times in the octagon before retiring with a still-impressive record. Trigg, in turn, went on to add 15 professional MMA fights to his record before re-focusing his efforts into other aspects of the fight game – such as refereeing and judging.

Trigg says he and Hughes talk when they see each other – which happens quite often considering Hughes is on a board for a charity that Trigg works with. They do agree on a few stances – such as the military, guns and hunting. There is still, however, plenty of things they disagree on.

“Politically, we’re on opposite ends of the spectrum,” Trigg said.

Still, they managed to find common ground.

“It’s pretty cool to look back at like the Muhammad Ali (vs. Joe Frazier rivalry) – how 50 years later they were still arguing, they were still fighting, they didn’t like each other,” Trigg said. “And Matt and I have gotten to a space where we can be in the same room and not throw jabs at each other.

“Of course, I have to be a little more humble because he beat me twice, and that game has to be played when we’re together. But, man, I’m so happy. I can’t say enough good things about him surviving this thing.”

To hear from Trigg, check out the video above.

And for more on the upcoming MMA schedule, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go towww.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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From scary accident to coma to rolling, UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes is back on the mat

Matt Hughes’ incredible recovery continues.

Hughes, once in a coma after a horrific truck-train collision, was on the mat recently rolling around with longtime friend Tony Zucca.

Instagram Photo

“I leave for only five days and come back to his ass wanting (and able) to roll! Unbelievable! Spare me the grappling lessons,” Zucca wrote Monday on Instagram.

One week after posting a picture of Hughes smiling in a wheelchair, Yucca posted a video of the UFC Hall of Famer controlling him in guard and even attempting a guillotine choke.

“The only things that are important: firing muscles that haven’t been used in a long time…and having fun!” Zucca wrote. “So awesome to see that smile and hear that laugh again.”

The clip is an incredible testament to Hughes’ resiliency. Two months ago, his prognosis was dire after his truck collided with a train on a country road in Raymond, Ill. The 43-year-old UFC Hall of Famer was airlifted to a hospital and placed in a medically induced coma because of a brain bleed. His longtime coach, Pat Miletich, said the former UFC champion might have been trying to beat the train and spun his tires before he crossed the tracks.

But since the accident, Hughes has made rapid progress. He came out of a coma in July, according to Miletich, and has been making huge strides as he recovers. Yucca said the transformation is nothing short of miraculous.

“If I posted a video from day one and compared it to today…and you still didn’t believe in miracles…well, there’s nothing that’s ever going to change your mind,” he wrote.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured, Featured Videos, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Matt Hughes' friend shares picture, update on UFC legend: Progress 'nothing short of a miracle'

Matt Hughes went out for sushi, and that is some encouraging news.

Hughes, 43, was involved in a scary accident on June 16, when a train reportedly struck the passenger side of his truck as he crossed railroad tracks in Montgomery County, Ill. As a result, Hughes was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He was in a coma and put on a ventilator.

Late Sunday night, close friend Tony Zucca posted a photo of himself and Hughes on social media to offer the latest update on his condition, calling his progress “nothing short of a miracle” – and that includes a quick departure from the hospital to grab some sushi (via Instagram).

Instagram Photo

I can’t even describe the emotions I am feeling as I write this post. Less than two months ago I didn’t know if my best friend was going to make it, and tonight we made a jail break for sushi (in disguise. Ha). Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions! His progress is nothing short of a miracle. He is working so hard and fights through the frustration. He is, as he’s always been, an inspiration. I can’t wait to hit the mats with him again…and he told me today that he has “one more round” left in him! Ha. (He laughed…but definitely wasn’t joking!). Thank you for all of your prayers! Please keep them up as he still has a long road ahead of him. I am witnessing the power of them firsthand! So thankful!

It’s uplifting to read that update, but it also echoes the message from Hughes’ sister last month, that he still faced a “long journey for his recovery,” even though he was taken off the ventilator.

One of the greatest welterweights in MMA history, Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC) held the title from 2001-2004 and 2004-2006, defending his belt on seven different occasions.

Here’s hoping the legend’s journey continues trending in the right direction.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Video: Watch Alvey Kulina's comeback fight walkout vs. Matt Hughes ahead of 'Kingdom' finale

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The Audience Network MMA drama “Kingdom” wraps up its three-season, 40-episode run tonight with its series finale.

On the show’s final episode, Navy St. MMA gym owner Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo) has his long-awaited comeback fight against none other than show guest star and UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. Ahead of the show’s final episode, take a sneak peek at Kulina’s walkout on the show and cage entrance with Hughes in the opposite corner.

The series finale airs tonight on Audience Network (available exclusively on DIRECTV and AT&T U-verse platforms) at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Check out the video above for Kulina’s loud and dramatic walkout ahead of tonight’s “Kingdom” Season 3 finale and series finale. And if you haven’t had a chance to see the show, the series is available on demand through Directv and AT&T Uverse.

Below, don’t miss some of our other “Kingdom” exclusive content with the show’s creator and stars:

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 214's Robbie Lawler: 'It's been hard' not having mentor Matt Hughes by my side for fight week

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LA MIRADA, Calif. – In the days leading up to his UFC 214 fight with Donald Cerrone, Robbie Lawler is having a difficult time dealing with the absence of longtime friend and mentor Matt Hughes.

Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC), a UFC Hall of Famer, was recently involved in a tragic accident where his moving vehicle was struck by a train, leaving the former UFC welterweight champion in a coma. Hughes is apparently now out of the coma and described as “improving,” but Lawler is still understandably filled with concern and feeling the void left by someone who is often by his side throughout fight week.

“It’s been hard,” Lawler said at Thursday’s UFC 214 media day. “He’s usually here with us, right by our side hanging out, making sure I’m all right. It is what it is. He’s doing better, but that’s like something his family should talk about and let the media know through their outlets, not mine.”

UFC 214 takes place Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Lawler (27-11 MMA, 12-5 UFC) vs. Cerrone (32-7 MMA, 19-4 UFC) airs on the pay-per-view main card following prelims on FXX and UFC Fight Pass.

Lawler, who is fighting for the first time since he lost the UFC 170-pound title to Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 in July 2016, was originally scheduled to fight Cerrone at UFC 213 earlier this month, but the fight was pushed back after “Cowboy” sustained an injury, resulting in a three-week delay to the bout.

“Ruthless” said he had planned to visit Hughes in-person for the first time since his accident after UFC 213. The postponement to the fight prevented that from happening, though.

“It’s been hard,” Lawler reiterated. “Forcing it to this date forced me to not be able to go when I wanted to go.”

Although it would be more than reasonable if the situation threw Lawler, the No. 3 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, off his game mentally for the bout with No. 11-ranked Cerrone, he said that’s not necessarily the case. The fight is almost a positive distraction, but once it’s done with, Lawler said he will be able to put his priorities where they need to be when it comes to his friend.

“It’s not on my mind until somebody asks me because I’m pretty good at focusing on what I need to focus on,” Lawler said. “It’s rough.”

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Matt Hughes' sister: 'Small signs of improvement' for UFC legend now off ventilator

UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes is off a ventilator and in the middle of a “long journey for his recovery” after a scary truck-train accident last month, his sister said in a family statement posted Tuesday on Facebook.

On June 16, Hughes’ truck reportedly was struck on the passenger side when he crossed railroad tracks directly in front of the train on Beeler Trail in Montgomery County, Ill. The crossing did not have a barricade and was marked only with a sign.

Hughes, 43, a native of Hillsboro, Ill., was unconscious when first responders arrived and immediately airlifted to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

On Tuesday, Beth Ulrici Hughes provided an update on the UFC legend’s condition, stating that he is off a ventilator and “showing small signs of improvement.” She also addressed what the ordeal has been like for the family.

Here’s the full statement:

Update from Matt’s family:

Audra Hughes, Annette Fuller, Emily Hays Hughes

Please understand that Matt was the only public figure in our family. The rest of us are just regular everyday small town folks. We have never had to deal with the media and all the added stress that comes with it. We are all very private people and we are doing our best to keep you all informed; but our focus right now is Matt and his recovery. No news is good news!

Matt is off the ventilator and showing some small signs of improvement. There are some stories and comments out there that are exaggerated. Please don’t believe everything you hear or read. This is going to be a long journey for his recovery. Please continue to keep Matt in your prayers. He is strong, he has heart and he will not give up! We are faithful in the fact that he will recover with God’s Grace and Mercy! We as a family ask everyone to keep praying for Matt!

One of the greatest welterweights in MMA history, Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC) held the title from 2001-2004 and 2004-2006, defending his belt on seven different occasions. He most recently fought in 2011, losing via knockout to Josh Koscheck, which marked the second straight time he’d been knocked out after a previous loss to UFC Hall of Famer B.J. Penn.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, visit the UFC Rumorssection of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie