MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani caught up with UFC Hall of Famer and former welterweight champion Matt Hughes Saturday night after his very impressive UFC 117 submission win over grappling specialist Ricardo Almeida. Hughes discussed with Helwani the variety of submission he used to put “Big Dog” to sleep, his continued motivation to fight and his plans for the future.
Just minutes into the first round and after Almeida looked to be getting the better of Hughes in the standup exchanges, Hughes dropped Almeida with a strong left hook and immediately applied a rarely seen choke from the front headlock position which he muscled down on in order to put Almeida to sleep on the mat. Hughes told Helwani the move was a throwback to his days as a college wrestler.
“I think the submission got set up with the hook,” Hughes said with a laugh when asked how he set up his winning chokehold. “I could hear my corner yelling ‘Throw the hook!’ They’d yelled it for several seconds. So the hook was there, I threw it, he was dazed, he went down. I got him in the front headlock position and that’s an old wrestling move I used to use all the time in college wrestling and it’s probably something Ricardo’s never seen. He’s a great grappler but that’s an old wrestling move that he was probably unprepared for or he wasn’t thinking right from the knockdown.”
Hughes added, “We always called it an arm-in front headlock. It’s a blood choke.”
The 37-year old Hughes is currently on what some would call an improbable three fight win streak with consecutive wins over teammates Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and Ricardo Almeida. Many had written Hughes off after he followed a submission loss to current champ Georges St. Pierre with a TKO loss to Thiago Alves. Hughes maintains that he is not going anywhere yet but that he isn’t sure exactly when he is going to step back into the Octagon.
“Not this year,” Hughes said of his timetable for return. “I’ve got a lot of hunting to do in the fall, that’s my passion so I’m gonna hunt the fall out and come next year I’ll talk to the UFC and figure something out.”
As for his continued motivation Hughes stated simply that he continues fighting due to a love of the game.
“What’s in it for me is that I have a good time going to the gym everyday, I have a good time doing the training, the time with my partners, I have a good time in the Octagon so why would I stop?” he asked, adding later, “I’m not done fighting in the UFC yet.”
As one of the UFC’s most successful welterweight champions ever, Hughes has many feathers in his cap. One of the most notable is that he holds wins over two prominent members of the legendary Gracie family (Renzo and Royce) and an equal number of their prominent students (Matt Serra and Almeida). Despite this however, Hughes will not be looking to acquire a new moniker at their expense, stating that his respect for the Gracie clan is enough that he would never brag at having beat some of their best.
“I don’t want to be labeled as a guy looking for the Gracies,” Hughes said when asked if he would adopt a nickname similar to Kazushi Sakuraba’s famous “Gracie Hunter” tag. “I’ve never asked to fight a Gracie, the UFC has always come to me with fighting the Gracies, Ricardo came to me. I don’t want that. I’ve got too much respect for them to be labeled the ‘Gracie Killer.’”