By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
It has been over a year since former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes competed inside the Octagon, and it's becoming increasingly more likely that his loss to Josh Koscheck at UFC 135 was the final fight of his career. Though he's not yet ready to fully commit to retirement, Hughes said on Monday that he's close to walking away.
"I wouldn't say I've closed the door [on my career], but I've got my hand on the door handle," Hughes said in an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. "You know it's been over a year since I've fought, and I've having a good time with my family raising my kids, which I think is a bigger thing than me competing, making sure my family is raised right. So I'm having a good time at home with the family, and kind of, maybe, lost the desire just a little bit to compete. I'm not retired yet, but it is looking like that's where I'm going."
Pushing the idea of retirement has been UFC President Dana White, who has said repeatedly in interviews that he'd like to see Hughes walk away at this stage. It's a sentiment he's shared with Hughes himself, and along with calls from his wife to step away, the longtime veteran is readying himself to move on.
"We have talked and he's voiced his opinion about me," Hughes said of White. "He just says I've got nothing to prove, and for Dana to say that, it means something. I think he's taking my best interests to heart. I still think he could make some money off me, put me on a card, but he's looking past the financial side of things, and saying, 'Hey, you've been here for a long time and you're good to go. You can retire.' With him talking like a father and not a businessman, it really lets it sink in a little deeper than it would the other way."
"My wife, of course, has said, 'Hey, you need to retire. You've got nothing else to prove.' So with those two saying that, it's kind of leaning on me a little bit. And the fact that, shoot, brother, I just had another birthday. I'm 39 years old. I don't fetch the way I used to. I don't recover the way I used to. I'm not as quick as I used to be. Probably not as strong as I used to be. So, it's funny. For the last ten years, I kept getting older and my opponents kept staying the same age."
Penick's Analysis: At 39 years old, having been knocked out in his last two fights, there's no reason for Hughes to return to the cage. He's made a lot of money in his career, he held the UFC Welterweight Championship for a considerable time, and continued to compete with top level fighters through the end of his run. He's not going to be making a run at a title again in his career, and with nothing left to prove there's nothing left to come back for. With his wife urging him to walk away, and Dana White expressing the same, I'd expect we won't see him back in the cage. But with every aging fighter, there's always a "never say never" approach to take, because the drive may return for one last bout. Still, I just don't think the right fight will be there to bring him back into the cage, and he'll be content away from the sport.