Life can change in an instant. It can be taken away in the blink of an eye. It can come at you faster than you could ever expect. For UFC Hall of Fame fighter, Matt Hughes, that moment came at a much younger age than he would ever fathom.
Last summer, Hughes was driving a truck in Raymond, IL one morning when he was struck by a train. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital when UFC President Dana White updated the fighting world about the beloved competitor’s condition. White confirmed that he had endured head trauma, when later, HSHS St. John’s Hospital gave an official statement.
“MEDIA STATEMENT: Former UFC fighter and Hillsboro native Matt Hughes was airlifted to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in the noon hour on Friday, June 16, 2017. The HSHS St. John’s Regional Trauma Team stabilized him and continues to help him in his recovery.
Hughes’ family asks that you respect their privacy during this difficult time. They ask that you keep Matt in your thoughts and prayers.”
Hughes’ coma wound up lasting a couple of weeks, when he came out of it in July. After a long, tough road, Hughes was finally able to come back to a very special place on Sunday night — the Octagon. The UFC presented an emotional tribute to Hughes and there were likely very few dry eyes in the arena.
“Matt Hughes is one of these guys who was a pioneer in the sport and has helped this sport evolve,” White said in the video.
“He was like a monument. He was like a legend. He was like the best fighter of all-time,” said veteran Georges St. Pierre, who fought Hughes three times during his time in the sport.
“In my eyes, he built me, he built Georges St. Pierre. He built us. I owe it to Matt Hughes,” said another legend B.J. Penn.
“I think I showed a lot of people I got a lot of heart and desire to win. A lot of guys give up in there, and will look for a way to get out, and, I didn’t do that,” Hughes is seen saying in the video.
A close friend of Hughes said that his recovery is “nothing short of a miracle.”
“We believed whole-heartedly that Matt would wake up, that he just needed time. He beat the odds and won the biggest fight of his life,” a hospital representative is seen saying in the tribute.
“He’s a fighter. You either are or you aren’t and Matt Hughes is,” White says. “He dominated the weight class. He broke records. He beat the greatest fighters of his era.”
“When people look back and think about Matt Hughes, I just want them to think I’m a fierce competitor. No matter what kind of circumstances I’m in, you can’t count me out,” Hughes said of himself at the end of the video.
What transpired following the heart-warming tribute was one of the greatest moments the sport had ever seen. Hughes made a typical entrance to the octagon with Bruce Buffer giving him the introduction of a lifetime. The crowd roared. Tears were shed. A miracle had come to fruition.