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Matt Hughes is good for the sport

Matt Hughes is good for the sport. There. I said it. Readers of this site probably thought they’d never see the day where I would praise Matt Hughes for anything. Well, perhaps hell has frozen over.

It’s quotes like this one that have me turning the corner:

“My wife says I was a little bit depressed the day I found out about it,” Hughes recalled. “I won’t disagree. I was just really excited to fight Serra … then I really started to think about it, started to pray on what I should do, to fight, not fight, fight [Jon] Fitch or Diego Sanchez or rematch Georges. I had a big decision, what’s good for me, good for the UFC, and good for the people watching the sport. And St. Pierre was the fit.

When Matt Serra’s injury was announced, the ball was entirely in Matt Hughes’ court whether to fight or not. Most, including myself, didn’t see any reason for him to fight. I thought for sure that he would wait until Serra heals, continue to train, and redeem his title shot at a later date and time. Why would he risk everything?

Obviously I don’t think like Matt Hughes does. He’s not just thinking about himself. He’s thinking about the good of the fans and the good of the UFC. He may not come right out say it, but you can guarantee he’s thinking about what’s good for the sport of mixed martial arts as a whole. What the UFC and these two athletes have done is nothing short of remarkable.

While Serra vs. Hughes is a good fight that I’d still love to see, St. Pierre vs. Hughes III lends a credibility to the sport and to UFC 79 in particular that you won’t find in many combat sports. For two of the sport’s biggest stars to agree to fight for an interim title on short notice speaks highly of the sport’s athletes. It’s speaks volume for Hughes and St. Pierre in particular.

As I said, however, the ball was always in Hughes’ court. He could have told St. Pierre’s camp to screw off. He could have waited on Serra, who he presumably thinks is an “easier” opponent. He could have done any number of things.

In the end, though, Hughes is doing what he knows best: fighting.