Matt Hughes first fought in the UFC in 1999. Three years later he captured the welterweight belt and forged a Hall of Fame career. His years of service to the promotion has led him to a cushy second career as the Vice President of Athletic Development.
In the fight game, athletes are independent contractors. They are free to sign with any promotion they see fit once their contract is fulfilled. Hughes never signed elsewhere.
Other fighters of his era – fellow Hall of Famers, at that – Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture both spent parts of their career battling against the UFC.
Speaking with MMAInterviews Spencer Lazara, Hughes was asked if it saddens him that Ortiz and Couture were not part of the UFC anymore. Hughes doesn’t feel for them.
“The way I look at it, it was kind of their decision. Randy sued the UFC, he’s left the UFC, so he should know that there’s going to be a little bad blood there from what’s happened. Tito, the same way. I think he’s badmouthed the UFC a little bit. So I would say about the UFC, ‘if you’re good to them, they’re good to you.’ Those guys, there’s certain times in their careers, weren’t loyal to the UFC. So now they’re paying the price.”
Since his days in the octagon ended, Ortiz recently came out of retirement only to injure himself again. He works as a manager for other fighters, notably Cristiane Santos – considered by many to be the best female fighter on the planet (don’t tell Ronda Rousey I said that). Couture, meanwhile, has starred in a few actions flicks and otherwise contributes his time as a media personality.
While it isn’t for anyone to judge how someone makes their career or governs their life, it is easy to argue that Hughes has the more secure post-fight career of the three. Hughes sure thinks there is a reason for that.