Jeff Hughes knows he doesn’t have a chiseled physique, nor does he need one. The heavyweight covered that topic and more ahead of his return this weekend at UFC Singapore.
The emotional drop after getting ready for a fight, going through a camp, flying out to the host city, only to have it end in a No Contest, is severe, to say the least. But UFC heavyweight Jeff Hughes (10-2, 1NC) is a resilient fighter, and he’s already on the rebound after his UFC Vancouver scrap with Todd Duffee ended prematurely.
The finish of that fight was widely debated, but few bothered to consider the emotional impact (not to mention financial) on the fighter. “It was pretty rough, but I got married the week before, so it was out of my head pretty quick,” Hughes told Cageside Press about the outcome. “I got to hang out with my wife.”
Newlywed bliss aside, “when I got home it was a little more rough, because it kind of sunk in, everybody was asking about it and kept bringing it up,” admitted Hughes. “It is what it is, it was unfortunate that it happened, but what can you do but keep going?”
These are the sort of things in fighting you cannot control. Inadvertent fouls are preventable to an extent, but eliminating them completely is next to impossible. In the case of Duffee, the foul was debatable, and a number of fans called for Hughes to get his win money. That didn’t happen, however.
“They gave me my show money, and that’s all I can really ask for,” said Hughes. “It would be nice to get more, but it didn’t work out that way.”
As for the fans, and the feedback Hughes got after the fight, “they were awesome,” he told us. “I didn’t really get much negative feedback about it. A lot of people said ‘you had him, the tide was turning, the momentum was on your side.’ A couple fanboys of his said ‘that was a terrible poke.’ And I was like ‘nyeeeeaah I don’t know about that,’ but it’s cool that there’s ways for you to hear people’s opinions about it.”
Terrible would be a stretch. But the fight was called off in the end, and it’s on to the next one. For Hughes, that’s a quick turnaround at UFC Singapore this Saturday. Hughes isn’t even 100% sure how this fight came about.
“Like I told the UFC, if there’s a card next weekend, put me on it. If there’s a spot for me, put me on it. And they listened, and I’m sure my manager had a lot to do with it,” Hughes said of the matchmaking process. “Not even a week [after UFC Vancouver] my coach called me and said ‘hey time to get back to the gym, we’re going to Singapore.'”
The upside of the timing is that Hughes was basically already in fight shape. “I took like less than a week off. Body healed up, I wasn’t too bad after the Duffy fight anyway,” he said. “I didn’t have any scratches. That was honestly the best I’ve ever felt after a fight, I wasn’t sore at all.”
“It was cool, I got to recharge the batteries a little bit,” he added. “You don’t lose much in a week.”
Singapore is a new destination for Jeff Hughes. A little more exotic then Canada for sure. And it speaks to his days as an MMA fan. “I grew up as a PRIDE fan. I loved PRIDE, and I always wanted to fight over there,” Hughes said. “This isn’t quite Japan, but this is over in Asia, and it’s about as close as I’m going to get. So I’m pretty pumped about it.”
His opponent, Raphael Pessoa Nunes, wasn’t someone whose name Hughes immediately recognized. “I know he fought in LFA right after I did. I know he’s 0-1 in the UFC. I watched that fight, and that’s about all I know about him. I know he’s been in the game for a while,” Hughes said ahead of the bout.
But he’s done his homework. And while Pessoa has been in the fight game for a while, so has Hughes. While they have a similar number of pro fights, Hughes also had a lengthy amateur record. Asked whether the timing of turning pro was circumstance, or if he wanted to rack up some cage time in the amateurs, Hughes answered that it was “a little bit of both. I felt like a coach I had at the time was trying to hold me back. He kept trying to give me these amateur fights. I thought after 10, I was ready to turn pro. Every time I’d convince him otherwise, he would change his mind.”
And so Hughes “fought a couple too many amateur fights I think. I think the magic number is 10, I really do. I think a lot of these guys have two or three or four amateur fights and then they go pro, and it doesn’t translate well to the pros. There’s a big difference.”
But with those amateur fights he’ll have the experience edge. He also, as noted, did his homework. “It’s a completely different game plan than Duffy was,” said Hughes. “I don’t think this guy’s a fast starter, I don’t think he comes out trying to kill you. He’s kind of a counter fighter. Which is good, it’s fine. I think it’s going to take us a round to find our timing, and then second round, I think one of us is going out. It’s not going to be me.”
The ability to go deep into fights, “that’s a thing I pride myself on, being a heavyweight. Especially a heavyweight that, I’m not chiseled up, I don’t look like an action figure or anything like that. I’ve went twenty-five minutes, hard five minute rounds. I’ve done it before, and I’m not afraid to go ‘so tired you can barely lift your arms up.’ I actually enjoy that, I like it a lot. And a lot of heavyweights don’t.”
Hughes admits he’ll sometimes get the odd criticism about his physique, despite jacked up heavyweights rarely faring well in MMA.
“It’s funny, once in a while I’ll get bored and look at comments and stuff. That’s the first thing some people talk about, is physiques,” he explained. “And I’m like ‘if I was entering a bodybuilding contest and you guys were talking about my physique looking the way it is, by all means.’ But that does nothing. Daniel Cormier is one of the greatest champions of all time, and you never see an ab on him.”
“It’s functional. What we do is functional. And a lot of genetics too,” he continued. “Some of these guys are just naturally like that. I’ve never been. I fought at 205, and you could barely see any abs on me.”
Believe it or not, Hughes said a return to 205lbs isn’t out of the question. He’d just need the time to do it, and greatly prefers not having the weight cut. It’s full steam ahead at heavyweight though, with UFC Singapore up next. Hughes opens up the UFC Singapore card against Raphael Pessoa Nunes, with the fight airing on ESPN+, and UFC Fight Pass in Canada.