Hughes, 37, is on the final fight of a four-fight contract. The former welterweight champion has not committed to re-signing with the UFC following his Saturday fight against Koscheck at UFC 135. But he hasn’t committed to retirement, either.
Although he admitted at a news conference Wednesday his wife has said, “I’m done fighting,” his options remain very much open.
“No matter what happens in this fight, I’m going to see how I feel afterward,” Hughes said. “I’m not saying if I lose, I’m done; and I’m not saying if I win, I’m staying.
“Dana seems to think if I demolish Josh Koscheck, there’s no way I’ll retire. I’m telling you that’s not a true statement.”
Perhaps not -- perhaps so. Predicting when a fighter will hang up his gloves is nearly impossible. Whether or not Saturday is the last time we’ll see the seven-time defending champion in the Octagon remains to be seen.
That said, Hughes (45-8) does not sound like a man who’s ready to walk away. He’s obviously already considered a possible future in the UFC, stating he intends to sign contracts on a fight-by-fight basis, instead of a multi-year deal.
He also clearly still enjoys the competition and lifestyle the UFC provides.
“I don’t want to [retire],” Hughes said. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I go to the gym twice a day. I’m around my buddies all the time. I still love to get in the Octagon. I really don’t want anything to change.”
As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, Saturday’s outcome most likely will have an enormous impact on Hughes’ next move.
Should he win convincingly, chances are White is correct in saying he will stick around. Hughes would be 4-1 in his last five fights at that point and, as he admits, the competitive drive would be hard to ignore.
“The bad thing is, we’re all competitors,” Hughes said. “Me, Chuck [Liddell] and Randy [Couture], you get that win and you want another one. It’s a sickness.”
If he loses, he’s also likely to return for one more shot. Hughes would still be a respectable 3-2 in his last five and, at that point, the only goal would be to finish his storied career with a win.
Even though Hughes was well within his right to retire after a first-round knockout loss to B.J. Penn in his last fight, he admitted there was no way he would have allowed that to be his final act.
“The Penn fight was disappointing,” he said. “I made critical errors in the first 32 seconds of that fight, or whatever it was. I made a mistake and this sport is deadly. You can put two small mistakes together and be done.
“I wanted to fight again. I was not happy going out, getting hit like that."
The only scenario which likely sees Hughes exit the sport, and again, this is a nearly impossible thing to predict, is if the fight against Koscheck is so legendarily amazing there’s simply no way to top it.
If it’s a fight where both men get knocked down, fight off submission attempts and ends with Hughes sealing an improbable victory in the final moments, one has to believe he’d take that opportunity to go out in style.
Then again, as White said in the news conference, Hughes has never been one to turn down a fight in his long career. Regardless of what the outcome Saturday is, there is good reason to believe that won’t change.
“Matt Hughes has never not been interested in anything,” White said. “I’ve never called Matt Hughes and had him go, ‘Eh, I don’t want to do this fight.’ Never, in over 10 years of being in business together.”