Future UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes took on another member of the old guard at UFC 112 in Renzo Gracie. The fight, which was promoted as a vengeance quest for Gracie (Hughes dominated Renzo’s cousin, Royce, at UFC 60), looked a lot more like two aging fighters trying to prove their relevancy and failing to do so.
What had the makings to be an entertaining ground battle between a still-serviceable wrestler and a Brazilian Jiu jitsu expert, instead was, from opening bell to closing bell, at best a pedestrian striking match in which Hughes looked disinterested to be a participant and Gracie looked like he really wasn’t quite sure what he was doing in the cage.
Hughes wore Gracie down with leg kicks and finally finished the Brazilian in the third round with a volley of strikes. Despite both men very clearly showing their age and striking ineptitude, Hughes is pleased with his performance.
“I’m real happy with my performance,” he told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani. “I had a lot of things on my side though. The weather was great for me. I’m a farmer so I’m outdoor all the time. I wasn’t fighting in front of my hometown crowd like maybe Renzo was, to where he felt pressure to perform in front of his people. I had a great camp, I was in shape. So I really felt that I was gonna do well.”
Hughes credits the negative response he drew from the crowd during the weigh-ins as providing the extra motivation that it took to finish Gracie.
“I walked away from that weigh-in telling myself that, ‘Okay people. You people that booed at me just motivated me and now Renzo’s gotta pay the price,'” said Hughes.
Hughes explained his strategy to stand up with Gracie as being a result of Gracie’s ground prowess and a general feeling of comfort on his feet. He didn’t want to take the fight where his opponent had the best chance of winning.
Hughes only competed once in 2008 and again in 2009 and, despite increasingly showing his age in fights, he has no interest in beating father time by increasing the frequency of his Octagon appearances.
“You know what? I just had a kid January 2nd,” said Hughes. “A little girl. I’ve got a good family at home so, no. Once, twice a year is fine with me. I just want my kids to know who their dad is.”
Although it would seem that retirement is becoming a more and more desirable option for Hughes, he says that he still has some gas left in the tank.
“I’m 36 years old and I’ve still got more fights left in me,” he said.
Considering that in his last three fights he was wrecked by Thiago Alves, barely beat Matt Serra and took too long putting away a rusty and overmatched Renzo Gracie, it is hard to see Hughes as a really relevant player in the welterweight division anymore. His chances against the young contenders in the division are pretty bleak and he has already lost to Georges St. Pierre, twice. The UFC seems to be offering him fights that will pad his resume and allow him the opportunity of ending his career on a high note; so, a rematch with Matt Serra or maybe Dennis Hallman would make sense for Hughes next.