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Opinion: Dana White and the UFC Should Force Matt Hughes Into Retirement

(Dust in the wind / All we are is dust in the wind.” Photo via MMAFighting)

When Dana White first attempted to end Chuck Liddell‘s MMA career in 2009, the move was met with mixed feelings by the MMA community. Though it was admirable to see a fight promoter put his friend’s health before profits, it seemed unfair that Liddell had no say in his own retirement. After all he gave to the sport, didn’t he deserve to go out on his own terms?

At the time, Liddell was riding back-to-back knockout losses against Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. He had reached the end of the line as a top competitor, and didn’t need any more concussions in his life. And yet, he convinced White to give him one last dance against Tito Ortiz. Then, Ortiz pulled out of their fight, and Rich Franklin stepped in and knocked Chuck out again.

In a way, it was the saddest knockout of Chuck’s career because of how well he was doing up until he lost consciousness. He was clearly motivated and in great shape — but after 12 years of standing and banging, it only took a single off-balance hook to shut his brain off.

I’m sure Dana White regretted the way the situation turned out, and the role he played in allowing Liddell to suffer another head-trauma. And I hope he learned a lesson that he can now use in dealing with Matt Hughes.

Hughes, of course, now finds himself in the same situation that Liddell was in following the Rua fight in 2009. His last two contests against BJ Penn and Josh Koscheck (at UFC 135 last weekend) ended in lights-out KO’s — yet he couldn’t bring himself to say the words “I retire” in the post-fight interview. Admittedly, it’s not the best moment to ask a fighter about his future when he’s just waking up from a loss. But now that a few days have passed, I hope Hughes realizes that campaigning for another fight does him no favors. It only gives him another opportunity to put his longterm health in danger by getting knocked out again. And as all followers of combat sports know, getting knocked out only becomes easier the more times it happens to you.

MMA is still such a young sport that we haven’t gotten to see generations of old veterans descend into dementia, like we have in boxing. (How young is MMA, exactly? Of the 39 fighters who have held belts in the UFC since the promotion began awarding official championships in 1997, 38 are still alive.) I think we’re suffering from the invincibility of youth — the naive idea that nothing bad will ever happen to us because nothing bad has happened to us so far.

And it’s bullshit. This sport will have its Muhammad Alis, you can believe that. Chuck Liddell’s speech cadence is noticeably different now than it was when he was a UFC rookie. It’s great that he’s finally stopped fighting, but I worry if the end came one knockout too late.

Ultimately, MMA promoters have to take some responsibility to tell fighters “no mas” when they start to become knockout magnets, because the fighters sure as hell aren’t going to do it themselves. Matt Hughes has reached that point where cage-fighting really isn’t in his best interest anymore, yet he can’t bring himself to retire because of the “competition sickness” that infects almost every athlete.

Bottom line, Dana White needs to do it for him, right now, and permanently. Going out on two losses is a bad end for a former champion, but becoming a cautionary tale is even worse.

Ben Goldstein

Cagepotato Comments

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Mir please break Brocks neck- September 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm
Hughes VS. Carlos Newton II ...... Give Carlos ONE chance at redeeming himself for that BS knockout when BOTH of them got knocked-out at the same time and Hughes got the decision!!! Anyone remember this...???
macreadysshack- September 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm
@RwilsonR . . . Cool information. I did not know that.
Malice_Unarmed- September 29, 2011 at 12:31 pm
Should give Hughes an easy fight then have him retire.
RwilsonR- September 29, 2011 at 10:38 am
@ joedirt - there is huge correlational evidence that boxing increases your likelihood for developing Parkinson's. This is recognized by the National Parkinson's Institute, and some studies have linked it as high as 10,000 times greater chance of developing it if you are a boxer. So there is a huge difference between the errant case of early onset Parkinson's that MJF has, and Ali's case, which if direct causation cannot be proved, there is strong evidence that boxing helped him along into it.
hhynike- September 29, 2011 at 9:09 am
Top game goods in ,there can help you to play games so easy
Jason Moles- September 29, 2011 at 4:54 am
If he's letting Wandy fight again, I say he might as well let Hughes.
Joedirt- September 29, 2011 at 4:47 am
You realize Ali has a disease right? Michael J Fox has the same disease and he didn't box. You'll find that some of the "crazy" or "slow" fighters were that way BEFORE they started fighting... usually excelling at fighting because they had no other options.
Not that getting punched in the head should be compared to brushing your teeth... it's clearly not good to get KO'd.
AndyInflammatory- September 28, 2011 at 10:43 pm
(How young is MMA, exactly? Of the 39 fighters who have held belts in the UFC since the promotion began awarding official championships in 1997, 38 are still alive.)

what about the Pankration dudes. They'd be pushing it a bit.
dcmsm- September 28, 2011 at 10:30 pm
I thought it was disrespectful as hell when Dana retired Chuck. Couldn't disagree more with the notion of Dana retiring Hughes as well. It's one thing for Hughes to retire himself and another for Dana to butt in do it himself.
RwilsonR- September 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm
@ danomite - good call! Hughes vs Arlovski, make it happen. Oh... you said welterweight.
Todd M- September 28, 2011 at 9:17 pm
^ Completely agree, Hughes was unfortunate that Diego pulled out due to injury, Koscheck was about the worst guy to match him up with. Hughes still has some fight in him, just not against strikers who can keep it standing. I would like to see Hughes retire, but in his terms and preferably after a win, maybe they can set up one more nostalgic matchup for us, I just can't think of a fitting opponent
Get Off Me- September 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm
" it only took a single off-balance hook to shut his brain off."

This was covered Ben, Rich Caught Chuck with a good shot.Shame.
Hughes would be doing much better had they booked him with the right type of opponents. The UFC wants ratings though and since the sport is so young, the star power on the grand scale of things is low. Hughes, Couture were victims of this in their past fights, they were there off their names, not because they posed any particular threat to their opponent. The next example and perhaps best example will be Nog vs. Mir, after this fight people will be calling for Nog's retirement. I think the UFC needs to not force fighters into retirement but rather book their "past prime" stars more responsibly. The problem is that Hughes, Liddell, Couture and Nog want to compete against the best still, much like any professional athlete, retirement cannot be forced, but there are ways the UFC can handle these guys so as we don't see them planking in their fights. I would have liked to see Hughes vs. Brenneman, Hughes could have probably beaten the spaniard and then he could have fought Fitch or something, Koscheck was a bad match up.
ringjoker80- September 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm
all fighters past their prime should always retire except chris lyttle went out with a win and who is he right lol. but glassjaw liddel, i got karate kicked in the face couture, and the most recent i got knocked out 4 mins 59 seconds hughes. hughes embarassed gracie the same way though. i think the old timers like letting the up and comers kick they butt. its sad and funny at the same time because if you are a veteran of this sport and you lose...maybe you were overrated in the first place and just a name now...stop embarasing yourselves and retire old timers.
J3t- September 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm
They should bring in Wandy to f*ck Hughes
RSparrow- September 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm
Hughes and Gracie, make it happen Dana. Thats all they want.
willie1189- September 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Hughes can still compete, he hasn't been top 10 in years so why is he fighting top 5 guys. couple guys mid pack he can face, like stun gun. He could even have a shot at jake shields cause shields will never hit his chin.
danomite- September 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm
I say find the welterweight version of glass joe from punch-out and let Hughes try and get that highlight reel KO he's always wanted. then retire him.
shitbag- September 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm
Also, Wanderlei. There is no way he'll retire on his own, that man will be 99 years old and will willingly throw down with anyone.
fatbellyfrank- September 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm
Ben, I agree with your point, however dana can only retire Matt from UFC, you still , unfortunately in this instance, cant save people from themselves, their pride, etc etc. As you said, MMA is a young sport so we dont have body of evidence re Brain damage, however we should look across at recent incidents involving Ice hockey and NFL where guys have been involved in violent incidents and also topped themselves due to Brain Injury acquired via multiple concussions in their playing careers. Anyone who suggests the type of knockouts MMA fighters are subjected to do not have long term effects on health are IMO kidding themselves
J3t- September 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm
Hughes looked good until the guy with the brillo pad haircut got him...I say give him one more fight with another star that is on their way down as well so he can go out a winner as well as a legend
rearnakedchickenchoke- September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm
People are not getting what "put on a shelf means" - he wants to be effectively retired but picked up for only some special occasion fight like a rematch with Royce or some other such clash of hall of famers that would be exciting for him and the fans. I don't think it's unreasonable either.
Fried Taco- September 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm
Especially a cautionary tale that carries a gun and a bible.
mDino- September 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm
all we are is dust in the wiiiiiind, ooooooh! your my boy Hughes!
i agree, he had the same pep as liddell until he once again got popped. matt has no stand up and i hope he retires