Former nine-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes doesn't like to lose. And in 20 fights from 2001 to 2006, during a span that can best be described as his "prime," the UFC Hall of Famer from Hillsboro, Ill., only dropped one contest, a surprise submission to the up-and-coming B.J. Penn.
Hughes, ever the competitor, would go on to avenge that loss to the "Prodigy" more than two years later with a technical knockout, but quickly lose the rubber match in the same fashion late last year.
He has had more ups than downs throughout his sparkling 13-year professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career. Hughes captured the division crown and lost it (twice), as well as been an integral part of a trio of the promotion's most classic encounters (Penn, Georges St. Pierre and Frank Trigg). He's even served as coach, twice, on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
It's safe to say that Hughes, (almost) 38, has seen and done it all. In fact, there isn't much for him to accomplish at this advanced stage of a legendary career, with the exception of one thing:
Going out a winner.
Hughes, who will satisfy the last fight on his current contract the second his fight against Josh Koscheck in the UFC 135 co main event is over later this evening, has already admitted that he won't sign another long-term deal. The most recent loss to Penn, which snapped a nice three-win win streak, all but dashed any hopes of making one last title run in the 170-pound division that he once ruled with dominance.
He recently sold his training facility, H.I.T. Squad, to his partner because it was too far from his farm, a place where Hughes admits there is much work to be done. Factor in that he constantly reminds us that his wife and kids at home are ready for him to retire to the family ranch, and it's pretty clear that the end of Hughes' line is close.
So close, in fact, that the end could come at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., win, lose or draw against the talented American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) standout. A loss would likely make his decision more difficult because he's wired to win ... and that's exactly the lasting memory he'd like to leave for his legacy.
And that's the same reason a victory would all but guarantee a post-fight retirement speech. That's because Hughes would have nothing left to prove, not even to himself.