Mixed martial arts legend Matt Hughes isn't out of the woods yet, but he's at least got to leave the hospital for a meal.
On Sunday evening, Tony Zucca, a personal friend for the former Ultimate Fighting Championship star, posted on Instagram that he had taken Hughes out for a sushi dinner outside of hospital grounds. The 43-year-old Hughes has been at HSHS St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Ill., after the passenger side of Hughes' vehicle was hit by a train while crossing railroad tracks in Raymond, Ill.
“I can't even describe the emotions I am feeling as I write this post,” Zucca wrote in his social media 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.”
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!
“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,” continued Zucca. “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!”
The train collision happened on June 16. According to Illinois State Police, Hughes drove his vehicle directly across the tracks “directly in front of the train.” Hughes was airlifted to HSHS St. John's following the incident, where he was described as being in “stable condition” but “minimally responsive,” and placed on a ventilator. On June 26, Hughes' sister, Beth Hughes Ulrici, posted an update on his condition.
He is improving and continues to show us his heart and determination each day. He has a long road ahead of him and your continued thoughts and prayers will help him with the journey” Ulrici wrote.
In a subsequent post on July 4, Ulrici stated that Hughes had been taken off of the venilator and was “showing some small signs of improvement.”
Hughes last fought at UFC 135 in September 2011, suffering a first-round knockdown loss to Josh Koscheck. Hughes then retired after a career spanning over 13 years. The Pat Miletich-trained product compiled at 45-9 record since his pro debut in January 1998 and made his UFC debut at UFC 26 in June 2000, thrashing Brazil's Marcelo Aguiar. In the Octagon, Hughes would go on to capture the UFC welterweight championship twice and notched wins over the likes of Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn, Royce Gracie, Matt Serra, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg and “Mach” Hayato Sakurai. In May 2010, Hughes was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.
In January 2013, Hughes was named the UFC's Vice President of Athlete Development and Government Relations, but was let go from his post this past December when previous parent company Zuffa sold the UFC to WME-IMG for a record-setting price in excess of $4 billion.