More than eight years after he made his final appearance inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Matt Hughes still holds a prominent place in the sport’s history.
The two-time welterweight champion announced his retirement on Jan. 24, 2013, closing the book on an extraordinary career that included a 45-9 record and induction into the UFC Hall of Fame. Hughes tested his mettle against a majority of his most accomplished contemporaries, defeating six former UFC champions along the way: Dave Menne, Carlos Newton (twice), Sean Sherk, Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn and Matt Serra. He was at the height of his power between March 17, 2001 and Sept. 23, 2006, as he won 19 of his 20 fights and twice captured UFC gold at 170 pounds. Age and mileage caught up to him in his later years, which resulted in five losses in his last nine outings and culminated with back-to-back knockout defeats to Penn and Josh Koscheck. Hughes was involved in a near-fatal accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury in June 2017, when the truck he was driving was struck by a train in rural Illinois. Almost three years later, he continues his long road to recovery.
With Hughes’ spot in the MMA annals long secured, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He passed through the fires of a common crucible.
A two-time state wrestling champion at Hillsboro High School—he compiled a remarkable 136-9 record that included undefeated junior and senior seasons—in Hillsboro, Illinois, Hughes moved on to Belleville Area Community College and Lincoln College, twice earning All-America honors under the National Junior College Athletic Association banner. He closed out his amateur career at Eastern Illinois University, where he was a two-time NCAA All-American (1996-97) and won 80 of his 95 matches.
2. A flash in the pan he was not.
Hughes remains one of only 10 men to have captured the undisputed UFC welterweight championship since its 1998 inception. The others: St. Pierre, Penn, Serra, Newton, Pat Miletich, Johny Hendricks, Robbie Lawler, Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman. Hughes spent 1,577 days as champion across two title reigns—second only to St. Pierre (2,204).
3. He deployed a vast array of weaponry.
A determined takedown artist and devastating grappler, Hughes secured 14 of his 45 professional victories by submission and utilized a variety of techniques in doing so. He dispatched three opponents with rear-naked chokes, three with arm-triangle chokes, three with armbars, two with keylocks, one with a guillotine choke, one with a kimura and one with an anaconda choke.
4. His achievements speak for themselves.
Hughes ranks sixth on the UFC’s all-time list in title bouts (12), eighth in victories (18) and 20th in appearances (25). He is also one of only six fighters to successfully defend a UFC championship on seven or more occasions.
5. Efficiency was a trademark.
The Miletich protege has 24 first-round finishes to his credit, including four stoppages of 100 seconds or less. Hughes knocked out Erick Snyder in 15 seconds in his Jan. 1, 1998 debut, dismissed an injured Tom Schmitz in 48 seconds on Nov. 13, 1999, put away Victor Hunsaker with punches in 1:39 on Oct. 17, 1998 and submitted Robbie Newman with a triangle choke in 1:40 on Sept. 30, 2000.