UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes has officially retired from fighting.
The announcement was made Thursday at the UFC on FOX 6 pre-fight press conference in Chicago.
The 39-year-old former two-time welterweight champion, who was born in nearby Hillsboro, Ill., and was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at Eastern Illinois University, will remain with the UFC as an executive, taking on the role of vice president of athlete development and government relations. One of his tasks will be to implement a new code of conduct policy for the UFC’s roster of fighters.
“It’s funny the road God puts you on, you just don’t know where you’re going to end up. What started as a hobby brought me to the UFC and here in front of you now,” Hughes said in a short statement to the media. “I love this sport and the new position is the best way for me to stay in it moving forward. I look forward to using my experience and providing a perspective for both the UFC and the fighters.”
Hughes was one of the most dominant welterweights in UFC history. He is tied for the most successful belt defences (seven) with Georges St-Pierre, the current champion and the last man to dethrone him at UFC 65 in November 2006. He also holds the record for most wins in the organization’s 170-pound class, with 18 spanning from June 2000 to August 2010.
He suffered first-round knockouts in his last two appearances against Josh Koscheck in November 2010 and B.J. Penn in September 2011, when he was stopped in 21 seconds. It was widely expected that Hughes had fought for the last time in the Octagon — it seems appropriate that the news be announced as the UFC returns to his home state for the first time since last January.
Hughes, who retires with a professional record of 45-9, is considered by many to be one of the major pioneers of MMA and is one of the UFC’s first bona fide stars. He first became champion at UFC 34 with a slam knockout of Canadian Carlos Newton in November 2001.
“Matt is one of those guys that was there from the early days and helped grow MMA to the modern, professional sport it is today,” UFC president Dana White said. “He has been in the sport since the late 1990s and really seen it all.”
Hughes holds wins over many other notable fighters, including Penn, St-Pierre, Akihiro Gono, Hayato Sakurai, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg (twice), Chris Lytle, Matt Serra and Royce Gracie. He was inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame on May 28, 2010.
In his new role in the UFC’s front office, Hughes will work with fighters based on newly-established athlete guidelines, and he will engage with state athletic commissions and international federations to provide regulatory insight from the perspective of a professional athlete.
“Hughes will be an invaluable resource for UFC athletes,” UFC COO Lawrence Epstein said. “Leveraging the background and expertise he gained over a Hall of Fame career, Hughes will be dedicated to providing guidance on a wide range of issues athletes face inside and outside of the Octagon.”
In addition to his success in the cage, he founded a gym, H.I.T. Squad in Granite City, Ill., and twice served as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. He is also a successful businessman, running an agricultural company during his fight career.