Matt Hughes is considered to be one of the greatest MMA fighters ever. During his reign in the UFC at the turn of the century, Hughes was considered the No. 1 pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world and held the welterweight title for four years and set a UFC record defending his title seven times.
Hughes was so respected, he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2010 before his career was over. He officially retired in 2013. In 2017, Hughes was involved in a train accident that left him in a coma and near death. Three years later, the ultimate fighter has fought back and made a miraculous recovery.
Matt Hughes had one of the best careers in UFC history
Matt Hughes made his MMA professional debut in 1998. He suffered his first defeat that same year but didn’t lose again for another two years. One of those losses came in 2000 during Hughes’ UFC debut at UFC 29. It was a bad first impression.
Hughes made up for his poor first performance almost a year later as he captured the UFC Welterweight Championship in UFC 34 when he defeated Carlos Newton via a second-round knockout. Hughes took on all comers and defended his welterweight title five times during the next three years.
After losing his title to B.J. Penn in early 2004, Matt Hughes reclaimed the welterweight title later that year and then proceeded to defend it a couple of more times late into 2006. As is often the case for aging fighters, Hughes struggled toward the end of his career. While he retired in 2013, his official last fight happened in 2011. He finished his career with an impressive 45-9 record.
Matt Hughes in coma after train accident
On June 16, 2017, Matt Hughes was driving down a backcountry road in Raymond, Illinois. As Hughes attempted to cross a railroad track, a train slammed into the passenger side of his truck just before 11 a.m.
Hughes was airlifted from the accident scene to a hospital in Springfield, Illinois, where UFC President Dana White indicated he had suffered a “severe head trauma.” At the hospital, because his brain was bleeding, doctors put Hughes in a medically-induced coma.
Hughes remained hospitalized for almost a month recovering from his injuries. Hughes later learned from doctors that he should have died or had what is known as locked-in syndrome, a condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for vertical eye movements and blinking.
After defying death, Matt Hughes began the slow recovery process, which included learning how to perform daily functions like brushing his teeth and walking.
Hughes provides updates on his recovery
On the three-year anniversary of the accident, Matt Hughes provided a status update on Instagram to his followers that compared his condition just days after the accident to the progress and where he is today, with a thoughtful message on what he has endured the last three years.
He said a year after the accident, although he was improving, it was a daily struggle, which is not uncommon for those who suffer a traumatic brain injury.
“I got complacent. I wasn’t noticing any big improvements. I was depressed, I felt like a burden, I felt worthless, and I would pray for God to take me,” Hughes wrote in the post.
As a top world-class athlete, Hughes said he knew his body well, but had no knowledge of the brain and all its intricacies.
“I still have a long way to go and I still have days where I get extremely sad and down, but I refuse to accept ‘this is as good as it’s going to get.’ If you are caring for someone with a brain injury, please be patient with them. Please don’t pick arguments or be overly critical. Educate yourself about the injury before you assume we are just being difficult for no reason.”
Matt Hughes made his name fighting in the octagon for years. Three years ago, he took on a whole different kind of fight. While he’s not finished with the battle, it’s a sure bet Hughes is going to come out on top.