- (Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) legend and outspoken believer in Jesus Christ, Matt Hughes (45-8), was looking forward to fighting fellow Christian and mixed martial arts star Diego “The Dream” Sanchez (25-4) at UFC 135. But when Sanchez broke his hand and was forced to drop out of the fight, Hughes opened up about his disappointment.
“As most of you know, Diego hurt his hand and is now out of the fight. I was sad to hear that, I was looking forward to going up against another Christian and thought that I could just let the fight go in God’s hands,” the 9-time UFC welterweight champion wrote in his blog.
Dana White, president of the UFC, broke the bad news to Hughes and said that either Jon Fitch or Josh Koscheck would be Sanchez's replacement. After a short wait it was found out that Koscheck (17-5) did indeed take the fight, which will take place on Sept. 24, on short notice.
Koscheck is, in many ways, the opposite of the humble but powerful Sanchez. He is usually loud and embraces the bad-guy persona that he earned as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 reality series.
As a former NCAA division one national champion in wrestling, Koscheck relies heavily on his ability to take opponents down, while Sanchez utilizes nearly equal amounts of wrestling, striking and submission techniques in his fights.
Fighters usually prepare for each opponent individually, learning to neutralize what they perceive their opponent's strengths to be and capitalize on their weaknesses, so when change in opponents happens so close to the date of the fight, some adjustments have to be made.
Nevertheless, Hughes doesn't seem all that concerned.
“Training has been going great. Yes, we’re switching things up with a different opponent and I will be ready.”
According to Hughes' biography on his website, he was born and raised on a farm in the south-central Illinois town of Hillsboro, and learned the value of hard work at an early age. During his junior and senior years of high school, he went undefeated in wrestling and won back-to-back state championships. He was also a four-time All-American wrestler in college.
Hughes won his first title at UFC 34 against then-champion Carlos Newton, and his hall-of-fame career just took off from there.
But in 2004, after having lost his title to BJ Penn but before regaining it later that same year, Hughes' life was changed when he put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Around that time he began attending church on a regular basis, something he hadn't done in a long time. He was invited to go on a missions trip to a Mexican orphanage, where he encountered a painting called “Who Cares?” which depicts William Booth's (the founder of the Salvation Army) vision of a group of people standing safely on a platform, in the middle of a raging sea, while others are drowning around them.
Matt decided that if he were in the picture, he would be among those who were drowning.
On the last night of the trip, Matt's twin brother Mark encouraged him to not wait any longer and to trust Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, which he did. Since that time his UFC status among the all-time greats has only grown, but he has continued to be active in his church and in his community.
Today, Matt Hughes and his wife, Audra, live in Hillsboro with their son, Joey, and their two daughters, Hanna and Katelyn.
His favorite Bible verse comes from 1 Timothy 1:15-16, which reads, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (NIV 1984).