Category Archives: Matt Hughes

The Ethical Question: Do I Buy Matt Hughes’ Autobiography?

As many of you have probably heard via the world wide web, Matt Hughes’ autobiography, Made In America, was recently released. Forgetting for a moment that it shares its title with an early 90’s Whoopie Goldberg-Ted Danson movie, this book has prompted me to do some soul-searching. You see, I want to read Hughes’ book, but I don’t want to give him any money for it. It’s not because I’m cheap, either. It’s more because I don’t want Hughes to have any more of my money, especially not for a book I’d mostly be reading in order to revel in my dislike for him.

Essentially, I’d be reading it the same way I read Romo: My Life On The Edge, which is hilarious and awesome for all the wrong reasons. At least with that one I managed to wait until I could get it from the library. With Hughes’ book, I’m not sure I can wait that long to mock the man’s completely fabricated value system and overblown sense of self-importance. You see the bind I’m in.

For instance, if I could buy the book from one of the many street vendors in my Astoria, Queens neighborhood — one of the North African guys who sells a mixture of comic books, hip-hop gangster novels, and cell phone cases — and if I could be assured that the book was stolen and that Hughes would see no profit from it, I’d buy it in a second. And why? Well, just take a look at this excerpt from the very first chapter:

They say there’s a lot you can do in five minutes. You can change a tire, eat a sandwich, or choke out Frank Trigg (again). But that October 13, I wasn’t doing anything but a whole lot of crying in the five minutes between my birth and that of my twin brother, Mark. “The doctor says they’re fraternal,” Mom said, “but I think they’re exactly alike.” But just because we were alike didn’t mean that we weren’t going to be rivals. I say that everybody with any sense knows that being born is a race, which means that I won because I was first. But Mark tries to argue that it’s a test of stamina to see who can hold out the longest, so he won.

Not only does Hughes manage to work in a reference to his two submission victories over Frank Trigg into the story of him being born (which is probably the most cliched way to start an autobiography), he also espouses a belief that “everybody with any sense knows that being born is a race”. I’m asking you, after that one paragraph, how can you not want to read this book?

If you’re not sold on it already, let me offer another excerpt that’s been getting a lot of attention on the internet. In this one, Hughes is confronted by former UFC heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia for generally being a jerk to the big man:

“Tim Sylvia walked over to me during practice. His back was hunched a bit, like Pat’s is, but Pat I could look in the face.

‘Can I talk to you a second?’ he asked.

“Sure thing.” He led me into an office and we sat down on two chairs.

“No one here’s got a problem with me except you,” he began.

“When I first started, Jens would say I’m a fat piece of s*** who’s never going to amount to anything, and he’d get me crying, but now even Jens likes me. Is there a problem?”

He was waiting for me to tell him there was a big misunderstanding or to apologise, like I wasn’t aware of what I was doing.

“Yeah, I really don’t like you,” I told him.

Hughes then proceeds to tell Sylvia that he doesn’t train hard enough and isn’t a team player. Sylvia’s response to these criticisms is particularly interesting, especially when you consider that it’s Hughes who’s telling the story:

“I’m actually hurt to hear you say that. I’ve been a huge fan of yours for a long time and I’ve been trying to model myself on some of your work ethics, and the way Jens works out and stuff like that, and it’s too bad you feel like this. There’s nothing more that I want than to be accepted by you and the rest of the guys.”

“You don’t become accepted by buying yourself a ticket to Vegas, following us around while we’re there when no one really invited you, and then crying – again – when Jens calls you out on it.”

“Is there anything I can do to be friends with you?”

“Well, right now I have enough friends and I don’t need any more friends,” I said. “Is that it? Are we done here?”

He let out a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Good.” I got up and left.

This is pure genius. Nothing sells a book like writing about a very personal encounter with one of your teammates, wherein he tells you that you’re his hero and wants to be your friend and you tell him what an asshole you think he is. I’m certainly not a Tim Sylvia fan, but even I feel bad for him after this.

The strange part is that I can’t tell whether to accept this as a faithful recounting of events, or as a blatant exaggeration by Hughes. And really, which would be worse? If he’s telling the truth, then Hughes is a jerk for putting this in his book. If he’s exaggerating, then he’s a jerk for going out of his way to make Sylvia look bad.

This excerpt is also interesting in light of Hughes’ posturing as a good, wholesome Christian man. For a guy who passes out Bibles to his TUF team, I’m starting to wonder if he’s even read it. Did I miss the parable where a sad, misguided giant comes up to Jesus and asks to be his friend and Jesus tells him to go away because he already has, like, a bunch of friends who follow him everywhere? Wasn’t Jesus’ whole deal that he loved everyone and was kind to them, even lepers and whores and what not?

Ordinarily I would not advocate comparing people to Jesus as a way of pointing out their personality flaws, but if you open that door yourself with a bunch of Bible-thumping on cable TV I have no problem walking through it.

I guess what I’m saying here is, I know I’m going to buy this book. I have to. I enjoy mocking the value systems and prose styles of others too much to stay away from it. I just want you all to know that as I read it and report back, I’m not doing it because I want to. I’m doing it because I have to.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, MMA, Sports, Tim Sylvia, UFC

What A Weekend For MMA

It’s been a long weekend in our sport, and I’m pretty exhausted.  After the IFL Grand Prix and UFC 79, it’s enough to make you wonder how we got to this point from the days of tiny shows in civic center arenas that went straight to VHS tapes.  How far we’ve come.  Anyway, it’s Monday morning now, so back to work…

I keep reading on the internet how surprised people are that Ryan Schultz beat Chris Horodecki for the IFL lightweight title.  Apparently, no one even gave Schultz a chance, which is odd when you consider he’s the only man to beat Roger Huerta, so he must know a thing or two about this MMA stuff.  What’s really strange to me though are the people who seem to think Schultz’s victory spells doom for the IFL.

I mean, really?  First, people complain that the IFL is propping Horodecki up and protecting him as the league’s golden boy.  Then, when he loses his first fight to a tough guy like Schultz, they think the IFL is finished?  I just don’t see it.  Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think the more diversity and unpredictability the IFL has, the better.  Who wants to see the same guy win every time?  Now the division is wide open, and it should be interesting to see Schultz’s first title defense.  I know for a fact that he and John Gunderson have wanted to fight each other for a very long time, and that could be an explosive one.

On the whole, the five championship fights on the IFL card were all great ones, and all ended decisively.  What really surprised me was not so much Schultz winning, but Benji Radach losing.

Matt Horwich has got to be a truly baffling fighter to go up against.  His style is so awkward and it doesn’t seem to bother him at all to get hit in the face over and over again.  Radach was doing a great job in the first round, circling away and landing solid shots.  But Horwich just never stops.  He may be a little on the weird side, but that really only makes him more difficult to figure out in the ring.  I can’t wait to see Horwich and Tim Kennedy go at it, which has got to happen hopefully sooner rather than later.

I didn’t get to see any of the UFC fights until returning home yesterday afternoon, but they, too, were worth the wait.  Georges St. Pierre proved what a dominant fighter he can be with a submission victory over Matt Hughes, and Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva treated fans to a truly memorable battle.

After the GSP-Hughes fight, I have to wonder what Matt Serra is thinking right now.  He shocked St. Pierre the first time, but does he believe he can do it again?  St. Pierre looked to me like one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world on Saturday night.  When he comes in ready and focused, I don’t think there’s a 170-pounder in the world who stands a chance, Serra included.

The other question at hand is, what becomes of Hughes now?  He’s said before that he only has a few fights left in him, and if he can’t beat GSP there’s little hope for him in the welterweight title picture, so what’s he waiting around for?  The answer may be a grudge match with Serra after his GSP fight.  That’s the only thing that makes sense for Hughes, other than retirement.

As for Liddell, the win over Silva is a tremendous career boost and will stand as a hallmark moment in his already Hall of Fame career, but I don’t think it qualifies him for an instant title shot.  I’d like to see him against somebody like Forrest Griffin first, but that probably won’t happen now that Griffin and “Rampage” Jackson are coaching the reality show.  More and more, TUF seems like an albatross for MMA, and for exactly that reason.  It puts the title picture on hold in whatever division the coaches come from.  So what does Liddell do now?

Well, how about a fight with “Shogun” Rua?  He got beat pretty soundly by Griffin, but it might make for a good contender match.  Then again, the UFC will probably just hold Liddell out of action until after Jackson-Griffin, rather than take a chance on him losing and getting tossed back in the 205-pound ranks.  Oh well.

As for Silva, he fought well enough to prove that he can still make some waves in the UFC.  He’ll probably never wear another major MMA title, but a rematch between he and “Rampage” still has some heat, though that’s a long wait for “The Axe Murderer.”  Wait a minute, what’s Keith Jardine up to these days?  Hey, I’m just saying.

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Filed under Chris Horodecki, Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, IFL, Matt Hughes, MMA, Ryan Schultz, UFC, UFC 79, Wanderlei Silva

Fun With Betting Odds: UFC 79

It’s a big weekend in MMA, which is only fitting considering the year we’ve had.  I’m in Connecticut for the final round of the IFL Grand Prix, while across the country the UFC has one of their best offerings of 2007.  That’s enough great MMA in one night to last you several months, but if you really want more there’s always the Fedor-Choi New Year’s Eve show in a couple of days.  In case you haven’t heard, that fight will supposedly feature special rules outlawing knee strikes (aka: Choi’s best weapon), thus upgrading it from a farce to a mockery.

Anyway, now it’s time for one of my favorite little games: breaking down the betting odds.  Bodog has odds on the UFC, IFL, and Yarrenoka! (Fedor’s going off at -1500, in case you were curious), but I’m going to stick to just the UFC so as to avoid any conflict of interest.

Once again, bet on MMA at your own risk.  It probably isn’t a good idea.  But I’m guessing people have told you that before, but you just won’t listen.

Matt Hughes (+190) vs. Georges St. Pierre (-240)

Even after Hughes’ last performance against St. Pierre and his face-heel turn in the last year and a half, I’m still a little saddened to see the line this lopsided.  Let’s not forget that Hughes dominated the welterweight division for years.  Those years seem to be all in the past, but after St. Pierre’s loss to Serra who knows what’s going on in his mind?  St. Pierre needs this win for his psyche and for his confidence.  If he starts out tentative Hughes could shock him, but don’t bet on it.  St. Pierre is still the favorite here for good reason.

Chuck Liddell (+110) vs. Wanderlei Silva (-140)

I’d be interested to know exactly what this line is based on.  Both guys are coming off two straight losses, both are on the downside of once-dominant careers, and both need this win to stay in the game.  Stylistically, Silva seems tailor made for Liddell, but so did Keith Jardine.  I still like Liddell in this one, and though the line isn’t great it might be good enough for small action.

Rameau Sokoudjou (-115) vs. Lyoto Machida (-115)

I’ve seen varying lines on this fight, with most pegging Sokoudjou the slight underdog.  That’s understandable, considering Machida’s ability to slow a fight down and control it.  Sokoudjou is explosive, but still untested.  I like him to win this, but it could easily go either way and the line isn’t much help at all.

Melvin Guillard (-225) vs. Rich Clementi (+185)

Guillard is the more athletically dangerous fighter here, but Clementi is a better tactician and technician.  If Guillard gets reckless Clementi could easily take him.  The line is good enough to justify some risk here.

Dean Lister (-325) vs. Jordan Radev (+250)

Radev had a wrestling background, so this isn’t as lopsided as some previous bouts the UFC has given to Lister.  Still, anyone with anything other than a stellar ground game is probably in trouble against “The Boogeyman”.  This should be interesting to see how Lister rebounds from a previous injury and how his striking game is coming.  If you’re one of the people who believe he’s dumb enough to stand and trade for very long before taking it to the mat, go ahead and put money down on Radev.  I am not one of those people.

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Filed under Betting Odds, Chuck Liddell, Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, MMA, Sports, UFC, UFC 79, Uncategorized, Wanderlei Silva

Another Interim Title?

The UFC has done it again. No sooner could I type out my belief that they weren’t desperate enough to invent a match for Matt Hughes to replace the one he was supposed to have with a now-injured Matt Serra, than they proved me wrong. Not only will they have Hughes meet Georges St. Pierre for a third time at UFC 79, they’ve created yet another “interim title” for them to fight over.

Matt Serra said it best on UFC.com: “I can’t believe the position this puts me in.”

Neither can I, Matt. On one hand, the fight itself should be a good one, and I’m looking forward to this rubber match between two top contenders. On the other hand, an interim title? Why?

I understand that Serra, the champion, is injured. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to fight again. It could be six months, or it could be more than a year. But what message is the UFC sending to Serra — who claimed the title back when there was only one in each division — by marginalizing him the instant he has to sit one out?

It’s not that I don’t understand why they came to this decision. They want a main event for UFC 79, and they feel like a title needs to be on the line to make that happen. It’s as if they’re as adamant about having a title fight for this event as they were about trying to convince us that the non-title fight between Bisping and Evans was worth our money last weekend.

Even so, interim titles are not the easy answer to every problem. Just because a champion can’t make the first date you set for him doesn’t mean you can just create a new title out of thin air. If you do, then what’s the point of having one champion in each weight class?

I understand that one of the criticisms people will level at my argument is that Serra has not defended his title since winning it seven months ago. But that’s not Serra’s fault. The UFC kept him from defending it so they could use the reality show to pump up a title fight between he and Hughes. Now he’s been injured in training, but that’s a part of the game. You can’t just nullify his title right off the bat.

I’m also against this move because it may cancel out the planned fight between Hughes and Serra. If St. Pierre beats Hughes for a second straight time (which is possible, to say the least), then St. Pierre would fight Serra to unify the fake title and the real one. There’d be no reason to have Hughes and Serra fight after that.

It’s starting to seem as though what the UFC really needs is a stated policy about champions and inactivity. The fighters need to know what’s going to happen if they’re injured or can’t fight for whatever reason, and the rules should be the same for everyone. You can’t just invent a new title because you want to have two people fight for it on a pay-per-view. That defeats the purpose of a championship.

My suggestion is that they institute a one-year rule. If a champion cannot defend his title due to injury, he gets one year to recover and make that defense or else he gets stripped of the title. A year should be enough time to recover from most injuries, while at the same time giving him the respect that a champion deserves from his organization.

What the UFC can’t continue to do is whip up these interim titles whenever they need to boost their pay-per-view numbers. Given enough time, eventually they’re going to run into a scenario where a true champion and an interim champion are both unable to fight at the same time. This is the hurt business, after all. What will they do then, create an interim interim title? It’s madness, I tell you.

The saddest part about this particular case with Hughes and St. Pierre is that we don’t need an artificial title to make it a worthwhile fight. It’s a good match, and one that makes some sense if Serra is going to be out for a while.

But just because one of those guys will get a belt put around his waist at the end of the night, that doesn’t make him champion. Just like how calling a fight between two reality show stars a main event didn’t make it true in New Jersey.

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Filed under Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC

Matt Serra Pulls Out of Title Fight With Hughes

Due to a herniated disk in his back, Matt Serra will not be putting his welterweight title on the line against Matt Hughes on Dec 29, the UFC’s official website reported this week.  Serra suffered the injury in training, thus derailing the rivalry bout that this season of The Ultimate Fighter has spent a significant portion of its screen time hyping.

Since Serra-Hughes was billed as the main event for UFC 79, this does hurt the overall appeal of the card.  Fortunately for the UFC, they already had a second main event on this card in the form of Wanderlei Silva vs. Chuck Liddell.  This long-awaited showdown even allows them to keep the title of the event (“Nemesis”) intact.  Everybody wins.

There has been some talk of the UFC trying to find a replacement for Serra in order to keep Hughes on the card, but I doubt that will actually happen.  Having Matt Hughes fight some up-and-coming welterweight while he waits for Serra to heal is an absurd idea with very little upside for the UFC.

It won’t be a title fight, so it doesn’t carry the same appeal, for one thing.  If Hughes were to lose to a Jon Fitch or Thiago Alves, it would make the fight with Serra seem pointless.  Even if he won it wouldn’t mean much.

The only other officially announced bout for UFC 79 is Sokoudjou vs. Lyoto Machida.  This will be Sokoudjou’s UFC debut, and it should make for an interesting match, but the UFC should really try to put together a few more good undercard fights to get this card back to the ‘event-of-the-year’ status.

So for now, it looks like Hughes and Serra will have to wait.  Maybe the UFC can convince Spike TV to run a marathon of this season of TUF before the fight does actually take place some time in 2008.  Then again, I think this is enough of a legitimate rivalry that they don’t really need to keep reminding us about it.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC

Is Reality TV The Worst Thing To Happen To Matt Hughes?

As I watched Matt Hughes continue to present as unlikable a persona as possible on last night’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter, I was struck by the strangeness of the fact that I used to be a huge fan of his. There was a time when I might have identified Hughes as my favorite MMA fighter, or at least in the top three. I once considered his second triumphant victory over Frank Trigg to be the greatest moment in the history of the UFC. You know, the one where he gets hit in the groin and then nearly knocked out and choked, only to come back and slam Trigg before choking him? That was great…wasn’t it?

But sitting on my couch last night, watching Hughes on TV, I couldn’t see why I might have ever liked him. Who was I then? Who was he? Have we grown so far apart, so fast? Where’s the Matt Hughes I used to know, the hard-working farm boy who never had anything bad to say about anyone, win or lose? Where’s the guy who was like a welterweight Randy Couture, only with slightly less grotesque ears?

In case you haven’t been watching TUF (and I’m guessing you have if you’re reading this blog, unless you’re my parents or Dan Brooks, who is too busy giving those free massages to sailors who come in at the docks on Wednesday nights), Matt Hughes has spent this entire season a) trying and failing to motivate his fighters, b) attempting to use some kind of junior high psychology against Matt Serra and his team, unsuccessfully, and c) making jerk-off facial expressions.

Last night was particularly special in all three regards. When two members of Serra’s team were forced to move to Hughes’ team, they asked if they could have a talk with Hughes and his assistant coaches to clear the air about switching teams. It seemed understandable. The whole thing had the potential to be very awkward, and as Richie Hightower said, if you have someone in your corner you want to make sure they have your best interests at heart.

So how did Hughes react to this situation? Naturally, he completely blew off Hightower and told him he wasn’t interested in getting to know him or be friends with him. Nice. That’s how you build the relationship of trust and respect that is necessary in any coaching dynamic. Well done, Hughes.

This is when I started trying to trace the beginning of my turnaround regarding Hughes. Did I stop liking him when he got beat by Georges St. Pierre? No, it was well before that. Was it when I learned he was such a fervent Christian, quoting Bible verses and handing out copies of the good book like some kind of disappointing Santa Claus? No, plenty of fighters are religious, so that’s not it.

Then it hit me. It began the first time he appeared on TUF, back in season two. My distaste for him grew when he came back seemingly just to needle Georges St. Pierre in season five, and it passed the point of no return this season.

You see, it’s not Hughes’ fault. He’s probably always been this way. I just didn’t realize it because I only saw what he and the UFC wanted me to see: pre and post-fight interviews, training footage, dominating performances in the cage, commercials with him doing vague farm work, etc.

But reality TV is completely different. It gives us the chance to see a situation and then to hear different people give their interpretations of it. It just so happens that the things Hughes does in these situations and the way he interprets them afterward, I find mostly sad and upsetting (as I do this high school yearbook photo of Matt and his twin brother — yikes).

It probably doesn’t help that TUF features Hughes in what may be his worst role: coach. In my experience, the coaching position is best suited for someone with patience, compassion, and the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. These are not the traits that Hughes is known for. He is an excellent fighter, or at least he was in his prime. Often in sports, excellent athletes don’t make excellent coaches. Babe Ruth’s short tenure as a baseball manager was forgettable, for instance, probably because he couldn’t understand why his players didn’t just go up and hit home runs.

Wow. Did I just compare Matt Hughes to Babe Ruth? I guess I did. Anyway, you see my point. Hughes is stubborn, egotistical, dangerously competitive, and single-minded. Those traits might make him a good fighter, but not a good coach. Reality TV only amplifies these traits — which are considered personality defects in the normal world, but assets in the fighting world — and makes Matt Hughes seem as though he’s become suddenly unlikable.

He hasn’t. He’s probably always been just as unlikable, but we just didn’t know about it. Now we do. Thanks again, TV.

Oh yeah. If you were wondering, Mac Danzig won last night’s fight easily and seems to be on a collision course with George Sotiropoulos in the finals, which ought to be a hell of fight. So there.

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Filed under Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC

It’s Official: Liddell-Silva at UFC 79

The long-awaited match between former UFC champion Chuck Liddell and former Pride champion Wanderlei Silva will finally take place in December, UFC president Dana White announced at last night’s Spike TV Scream 2007 award show.

One can only assume that pressure from Spike, which is the UFC’s cable TV home, led to the announcement (deemed a “HUGE Announcement” in the UFC’s email newsletter) at this particular venue.  If the anticipation of this announcement led one single person to watch the show without having a relative involved in it somehow, I suppose the tactic was a success.  The rest of us were probably busy not caring about contrived genre award shows, so we had to settle for reading it on the internet.

It’s not exactly a surprise announcement since the Direct TV website has been displaying ads for this fight at UFC 79 for the past few days, but it’s exciting nonetheless.  Hardcore fans have been waiting for this match for years.  While some of the luster is gone after a recent string of defeats for both Liddell and Silva, their styles alone should make a for a great match even if it doesn’t have the title ramifications it once did.

When I was writing for Ninjastar.tv a couple of years back, Brad Monahan did an interview with Liddell where he discussed a potential fight with Silva.  His prediction for the fight then — “It’s not that hard, we’ll just hit each other until one of us falls down” — still seems applicable now.

Silva’s ultra-aggressive striking style and Liddell’s powerful counter-striking style seem like a recipe for a great match whether there are belts at stake or not.  In fact, it’s almost better that they’re both coming off losses.  Instead of billing the match as a ‘Champion vs. Champion’ affair, now it becomes a bout to see who still has a future in the sport and who should think a little harder about retirement.

Add this match to the only other officially announced bout — Matt Serra vs. Matt Hughes for the welterweight title — and you have a hell of a fight card.

There’s no official word yet on whether the IFL Grand Prix finals will be a free lead-in on MyNetworkTV before the UFC event gets underway, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out that way.

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Filed under Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, MMA, Sports, UFC, Wanderlei Silva