UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes has officially retired from active competition and will now assume a role in the organization’s front office.
UFC President Dana White announced the news on Thursday, also revealing that the UFC will implement a formal, written code of conduct for its talent moving forward. Part of Hughes’ new job as Vice President of Athlete Development and Government Relations will be to serve as mentor to the UFC roster and make sure the fighters comply with the code.
Hughes, who made his last in-cage appearance in September 2011 and has hinted at a possible retirement multiple times since, was selected for the position because of his proven track record both in and out of the Octagon, according to UFC head legal counsel Lawrence Epstein.
“It’s funny the path God puts you on. What started out as a hobby brought me to the UFC and [to this place] in front of you now,” Hughes said at Thursday’s press conference. “I love this sport, and the new position is the best way for me to stay in it moving forward. I look forward to using my experience to provide perspective to both the UFC and the fighters.”
Hughes, 39, began his MMA career in 1998, winning 22 of his first 23 fights. The Illinois native would wrest the UFC welterweight title from Carlos Newton in 2001 and defended the title successfully five times before dropping the belt to underdog B.J. Penn at UFC 46. Hughes then recaptured the vacant title after “The Prodigy” left the promotion, submitting Georges St. Pierre at UFC 50 to become a two-time champion.
The former NCAA Division I wrestling All-American then defended his belt twice more over the course of four straight wins, stopping fellow Hall of Famer Royce Gracie and avenging his loss to Penn in the process. Hughes would lose three of his next four fights, however, relinquishing the title to St. Pierre in a 2006 rematch before again coming up short against the Quebec native the following year.
Though Hughes would post a trifecta of victories from May 2009 to August 2010, the welterweight finished his career with back-to-back knockout defeats to Penn and Koscheck. Known for his powerful wrestling ability and durability in the cage, Hughes competed 54 times, notching 35 finishes to his credit over nearly 14 years as a pro.