Matt Hughes at UFC 52
Forty-five wins, eight losses.
Two-time UFC welterweight champion, seven title defenses.
Eighteen victories in the Octagon.
UFC Hall of Fame inductee.
That list of accomplishments can’t be mistakenly accredited to any other fighter than Matt Hughes.
Entering on a three-fight winning streak, Hughes was derailed Saturday night at UFC 123 in Detroit. In the rubber match of their trilogy, B.J. Penn knocked Hughes out 21 seconds into the fight.
“When he hit me, I actually thought it was a knee or a kick,” recalled Hughes after the fight. “It wasn’t a clip; he hit me pretty hard.”
Of his eight losses, Hughes has only been knocked out four times. Even though three of those are among his four most recent losses, those three are still spread out over a four-year span. No one is going to compare that to fellow UFC legend Chuck Liddell, who has been KO’d in his three most recent fights, spanning less than two years.
Still, like Liddell, the question swirls around the former champion: should he hang up the gloves?
“I don’t know what the plan is now. I had a perfect training camp coming into this. This is one of those fights I would have paid my purse to Dana White to put this fight together,” Hughes told interviewer Joe Rogan in the Octagon after the fight.
“I had a lot of momentum. I had a lot on the line. This was a huge fight for me.”
It was a huge fight. For many fans, it was the close of a trilogy, an end to a rivalry that has spanned nearly seven years. But much more than that, for Hughes, it may have ended his final run towards title contention. It may have taken away his reasons for remaining in the Octagon.
Penn now moves into a showdown with the No. 2 ranked welterweight in the world, Jon Fitch, at UFC 127 in February. A win there propels him into the title mix.
Hughes is now left to reassess just where he stands in the division and whether there are still any more fun fights left for him. Without a gold belt dancing on the edge of his vision, what is left for a 37-year-old fighter with the unmatched resume that he possesses?
Are there any fights left that excite him to train at the level necessary to fight in the Octagon? Does he want to be relegated to gatekeeper status?
Matt Hughes will always be one of the most storied champions in UFC history. His legacy is etched it stone. The question is whether there is anything left to add to that legacy in the Octagon.
Neither he nor UFC president Dana White had the answer to that question on Saturday night.
“To be honest, I don’t know what goes on now,” Hughes said on Saturday night.
“I’ll talk to Matt Hughes next week, or whenever he’s done hunting or whatever he’s gonna do, and we’ll figure it out,” said White.
The UFC president was, however, sure of one thing: what the former champion has meant to his company.
“There are guys that I have talked about for years. Guys that are loyal, that helped build this company and helped us get to where we are today and Matt Hughes is one of those guys.”