Matt Hughes is one of the greatest fighters in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history. He had a long and storied career as a mixed martial artist. Matt grew up in rural Illinois where he worked on a farm with his two sisters and twin brother Mark. Many people are unaware that Mark was also a UFC fighter for a few years, but decided that it was not for him and went back to work for the family farm and construction company.
Showing a talent for wrestling in high school, Matt was a two-time 145 lb Illinois Class A state wrestling champion. Matt racked up 131 wins during the final three years in high school while only suffering two losses. Matt continued his wrestling career in college where he was a two time NCAA Division I All American.
Matt decided to continue his wrestling career by branching out into mixed martial arts. He made his professional debut on January 1, 1998 at Joe Gaytia's JKD Challenge where he defeated his opponent in just fifteen seconds.
One of the greatest highlights of Matt’s career was when he defended his UFC welterweight championship belt seven times in a row. During a time when the UFC was not at the height of its popularity, Matt was one of the trailblazers that legitimized the sport. He retired from fighting on January 24, 2013, but he has claimed that he has always wanted to come back into the octagon.
Matt suffered a terrible car accident on June 16th, 2017 where the passenger side of his truck was struck by a train. Matt was lucky to survive the event, let alone live a normal life again.
Matt suffered a stage three axonal brain injury. In most cases a patient would never be able to walk again and would likely be wheelchair bound for the rest of their life. The neurons in Matt’s brain were significantly damaged during the accident. Neurons are used to send information back and forth in the body. If they are damaged severely enough then the brain is unable to send the proper signals to the body.
Through a combination of speech, physical, and occupational therapy Matt was able to regain the ability to walk and speak again. Matt incredibly can walk down stairs without needing a handrail, a feat that many people without Matt’s injuries struggle with. Matt’s struggles were detailed in the UFC documentary “Country Boy Can Survive”, an homage to the fact that Matt drew up on a farm.
Just walking and talking is not enough for Matt though, he has his sights set much higher. Matt visited the BioXcellerator medical facility in Medellin to receive stem cell treatment. Stem cell treatment can improve Matt’s condition. Stem cells from Matt’s spinal cord were injected back into his bloodstream after being treated. Matt hopes that the stem cell therapy he went through will help him get back in the octagon someday.