UFC 135 Results: How Long Should Matt Hughes Stay on the Shelf?

Leon Horne@@Leon_HorneAnalyst ISeptember 25, 2011

LONDON - JULY 13:  Matt Hughes of the USA and current Welterweight Champion celebrates his win over Carlos Newton of Canada during the Ultimate Fighting Championship, 'Brawl in the Royal Albert Hall', in the Royal Albert Hall London, England on July 13, 2002. (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)
John Gichigi/Getty Images

UFC 135 has gone and past and it appears as if the fight game has passed by a legend of the sport as well. UFC Hall of Famer, Matt Hughes lost his second straight inside the Octagon and for the second time in as many fights it was via brutal first-round knockout.

Josh Koscheck appears to have put a cap on Hughes' mixed martial arts career even though Hughes may be seeing things differently.

"I'm not retiring," Hughes told Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview. "I'm going to tell the UFC to put me up on the shelf and we'll see what happens after that."

Of course it would make sense what Hughes is saying if he were a young guy working his way to the top. After suffering two first-round knockouts, one at the hands of B.J. Penn and the other at the hands of Koscheck, most guys would ask for some time on the shelf to get their head together and develop their skills.

The difference with Hughes and most other guys is that he is 37 years old and his skills are eroding and not developing anymore. This isn't a knock on Hughes, it's simply a fact of life, the human body reaches a point where it simply doesn't develop anymore and just maintaining what one has becomes a full-time job, let alone getting better.

In a sense, Hughes looked good against Koscheck for a good chunk of the first round before losing. He took a page out of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre's book by utilizing his jab to attack the right eye of Koscheck.

St-Pierre had broken Koscheck's orbital bone which required surgery that put the former NCAA Division I wrestler on the shelf for quite a while. This fight against Hughes was his first fight back since losing to St-Pierre in 2010.

Hughes' jab-heavy attack was working, Koscheck looked bothered and he was having trouble finding his range, but it only lasted so long.

One would have to imagine that Koscheck was a bit concerned about getting punched in the face after what happened against St-Pierre, but once he realised he was going to be alright, he found his range and put Hughes away before he had time to do any damage.

Putting Hughes on the shelf at this stage in his career sounds more like an informal retirement than a pause from the sport. How long of a pause does he want or need?

He's turning 38 in a couple of weeks and a year or two away from the sport would put him near 40 and there aren't too many guys out there having much success in athletic endeavors that late in life.

On top of his age, what more does Hughes have to prove that would warrant a comeback?

He has won the UFC welterweight championship on two occasions, defended it on seven, he is already in the Hall of Fame and he is one of only two men to beat current welterweight champion and pound-for-pound great St-Pierre.

Hughes has accomplished everything an athlete in this sport possibly can and any more fights would just be for the fans and his own personal love for the sport.

Of course, one can appreciate that Hughes has a love for the game and is a competitor who wants to fight on, but with the way he is being knocked out of late, he and the people around him have to think about his health and quality of life going forward.

Even though Hughes is simply asking to be put on the shelf, it looks like his fight with Koscheck was his swan song. If he still wants to fight, I'd suggest the UFC give him a winnable fight so that he can go out on a high note, but aside from that it looks as if it would be better for the former champ to call it a career.

UFC president Dana White said so himself that he expects Hughes to retire after what transpired last night.

“I think he’s going to retire,” White told members of the media at the post-fight press conference. "I just don't think that Hughes wants to say the word 'retire.'"

We will see over the course of the coming months what Matt Hughes really chooses to do, but at this point in his career, if the UFC puts him on the shelf, it wouldn't be a bad thing if he stayed there for good.


Leon Horne is a writer for Bleacher Report and is part of the B/R MMA interview team, Follow @Leon_Horne.

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