I first came across the rumor that Matt Hughes has left MFS to start his own gym while reading Luke Thomas’ site, BloodyElbow.com. Luke first heard rumor on the Savage Dog Show. Since then this story has taken on a life of its own with a lot of people speculating over Hughes’ motives for starting his own gym.
I was able to speak with Monte Cox, Hughes’ manager (and the manager for Tim Sylvia, Rich Franklin, and a host of other big name fighters), and Jens Pulver, another client of Cox’s and a good friend of both Hughes’ and Robbie Lawler’s.
What I can tell you is this: Cox has confirmed that Hughes will be starting his own gym in the St. Louis area and Lawler has accepted a lucrative offer to help Hughes run the gym. The gym location actually isn’t that far from where Hughes currently resides. Meanwhile, Lawler and his wife will be relocating.
All the talk of insidious plots and bad blood appears to be erroneous though. I think Pulver said it best when he claimed that a lot of people on the Underground forum have “taken this whole thing six steps too far.”
First, there was some rumor that Hughes slept with Pulver’s wife. This is comical because Jens isn’t married and never has been. He said he doesn’t even have a girlfriend right now.
Second, Hughes doesn’t technically train full-time at MFS in Iowa. His family is based outside of Iowa and he primarily lives with them. He travels down to Iowa for training camps to get ready for upcoming fights. In fact, it hasn’t been established whether Matt has even left MFS. If Matt wants to continue to compete at a world class level he will need world class training partners. Lawler is a great guy to train with but Cox indicated that Matt will probably need more partners than just Lawler to get ready for Matt Serra on Dec. 29. It’s very possible that Matt is still in fact with MFS.
According to Jens, there is no ill will. It’s a family atmosphere down there and he’s surprised by a lot of what he’s hearing because a lot of what’s being written simply isn’t the case. Jens likened Matt opening a gym in St. Louis to Jeremy Horn opening a gym in Salt Lake. It’s nothing personal, it was just business because all the guys who train in Iowa primarily come from other parts of the country. It’s always been joked down there that people will grow up and eventually “leave the nest.” I think that’s exactly what’s going on with Hughes’ gym in St. Louis, and nothing more.
MMA is hot right now with more and more people looking to train at various levels. It makes sense for Hughes try to capitalize on the business potential out there and start up his own gym. I don’t think it’s much different than when Dan Henderson branched off from the Oregon location of Team Quest and set up shop in Temecula, Calif. Jens even mentioned that he’s looking to open a gym in Seattle and or Idaho after his career is over. When I asked him if I could quote him about that he said it was no big deal because he’s already talked about it with friends at MFS.
So to clarify, FiveOuncesOfPain.com can confirm that Hughes is starting a gym in the St. Louis area but it’s still not certain whether he’s leaving MFS altogether. Also, virtually all of the conspiracy theories out there that have surfaced are false.
Update: UFCjunkie.com is reporting that Hughes has indeed left MFS and will be starting a fight team of his own at the new gym called H.I.T. (Hughes Intensive Training) Squad.