Matt Hughes’s seventh defense of his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title took place at UFC 63 on Sept. 23, 2006, in Anaheim, California. It was originally to have been titled “Hughes vs. St. Pierre 2,” as top contender Georges St. Pierre, who had suffered his first career loss to Hughes at UFC 50 two years before, had rebounded with five straight wins, more than earning a second shot at the belt.
However, four weeks before the event, St. Pierre suffered a groin injury in training, which led him to withdraw from the fight soon after. In stepped B.J. Penn, the former welterweight champ who had shocked Hughes to take the title in January 2004, then departed the UFC to fight all over the world—and all up and down the scale, fighting as high as light heavyweight. The prodigal “Prodigy” had come back to the UFC earlier that year, losing his return fight to St. Pierre via split decision, and readily stepped up for another opportunity to upset Hughes.
So it was that “Hughes vs. St. Pierre 2” became “Hughes vs. Penn 2.” Despite the fact that Penn had blitzed the heavily favored Hughes in less than a round in their first meeting, oddsmakers installed the champ as a 2-to-1 favorite going into the rematch and for about two rounds, it looked as if those bookies would have egg all over their faces once more. Penn probably won the first round, and indisputably won the second, as he swept Hughes, took his back and threatened with a rear-naked choke and an armbar.
The third round, however, was a different story. Hughes rocked Penn with punches, took him down and passed to side control, then trapped Penn’s nearside arm. With the Hawaiian completely stuck, Hughes teed off on his unprotected face until “Big” John McCarthy called a stop to the fight at 3:53. Hughes had defended his title yet again, finishing in emphatic fashion.
Afterward, St. Pierre entered the cage, congratulated Hughes on the win, then added the now-immortal line, “…but I am not impressed by your performance.” The native French speaker would later express regret over his choice of words, but in the moment, the Anaheim crowd erupted, Hughes bristled and MMA forums laughed as one. Misspoken or not, St. Pierre would get his shot next, as he and Hughes finally rematched at UFC 65 two months later.