Esther Lin for MMA Fighting
Matt Hughes admits that mixed martial arts (MMA) retirement wasn't an easy decision; however, after some reflection and persuasion from his wife and UFC President Dana White, he knew it was time to walk away. In his new role as UFC Vice President of Athletic Development and Government Relations, Hughes will aim to be fair, yet firm, with active fighters ... just don't call him a "policeman."
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion and recent Hall of Fame inductee was knocked out in back-to-back bouts, both in the first round, at the hands of B.J. Penn and Josh Koscheck after racking up three straight victories.
With 15 years in the sport and accomplishing what many fighters can only hope to aspire, Hughes -- albeit reluctantly -- finally decided to walk away from active competition; however, he will remain a part of the UFC family, assuming the new role of Vice President of Athletic Development and Government Relations.
It was a new position the promotion created specifically for Hughes.
Despite seemingly going out of its way to take care of a fighter who helped grow the UFC brand at a pivotal moment in time, Hughes admitted after the UFC on Fox press conference that he wasn't completely sold on the idea. On the contrary, it took additional convincing from his wife and UFC President Dana White to ultimately draw the shades on a stellar MMA career.
In fact, according to the former 170-pound kingpin, had it not been for White's new job offer and the follow up conversations, he would still be looking to secure his next fight inside the Octagon.
MMA Fighting has the word:
"(It's) A trying day for me. I knew the retirement was coming, but as a competitor, you hate hanging the gloves up. So, not real happy about it, but the way it is, everybody's gonna grow older and I'm just excited to still be a part of the UFC and going to fill this role of Athletic and Government relations. Dana has always been, sometimes he's the boss, sometimes he's a brother and sometimes he's a dad. He came to me, with my wife, and said, ‘Hey, you don't need to compete anymore. I've got a position for you, we've been looking to fill it. You fit the role perfectly.' In the end, he's right, he's right. When you lose the last two like I did, where I think if the fight would have went all 15 minutes I would have won both of them, he's right. I'm just glad I've got a position here to keep me in the sport. If he hadn't said that, I would have already had (another) fight under my belt."
The former NCAA All-American wrestler intends to take his new role seriously, vowing to do it the only way he knows how even if UFC executives aren't in complete agreement. After all, he was never anyone's "puppet" and doesn't intend to become one anytime in the future.
"Whenever they put a mic in my face, I always said and did what I wanted. I never was anybody's puppet. So, I'm going to do what I think is right and they want me to do what's right. They want to understand what's going on in a fighters mind sometimes. So, yes, I'm going to draw a paycheck from the UFC, but I'm there to give my perspective on whatever it is that arises. I don't think they have to worry about me siding with them and I don't think the fighters have to worry about that either. I'm going to do what I think is right."
Hughes pointed out that he doesn't want to be perceived as a "policemen" and doesn't want fighters on the UFC roster fearing the worst when they receive a call or text from him.
He simply wants to serve as a liaison between the fighters and the higher ups at Zuffa.
And it's hard to think of a better man for the job.