UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes: Fans Mistake Some PED Cheaters for ‘Great’

UFC Fans
Dan Flynn

Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes concedes that some mixed-martial artists perceived as great by fans gained their reputations through outlawed chemicals.

“I do think there were people in my era who people say are ‘great’ that were cheating,” Hughes told Breitbart Sports earlier this week. “We did have rules back then. We did have drug testing. I don’t think the drugs were as prevalent as they are now and the ways to get around the testing was like it is nowadays.”

The remarks came in anticipation of the retired 45-9 mixed-martial artist entering the UFC Hall of Fame’s “fights” wing for his 2005 rematch victory over Frank Trigg and in the wake of the UFC announcing a new drug-testing regime. The punishments under the new system, which went into effect just days ago, rank as the harshest in all of professional sports.

“I just had a big fighter summit in Vegas a couple months ago,” Matt Hughes, now a vice president with the promotion for which he fought for a decade, explained in response to a Breitbart Sports question. “And I told the fighters: ‘Next time you guys go to the table wanting a bigger payday, you remind yourselves that these cheaters out there have cost the UFC around $4 million.’ They pay for this drug-testing program. That’s $4 million that will not go to the fighters because of these cheaters out there.”

The UFC contracted with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to conduct random in- and out-of-competition tests. First-time offenders receive two-year suspensions for use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Other fighters on the UFC’s Monday conference call promoting its Hall of Fame ceremonies this Saturday ahead of UFC 189 similarly spoke favorably about the organization’s crackdown on PEDs. Frank Trigg seconded his former nemesis in affirming that some “great” reputations came via underhanded chemical enhancements.

“In my era of fighting, it’s been rumored anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of athletes were on something,” Trigg noted. “There were a lot of great guys, when you look back, using performance enhancing drugs.”

“We lost Gilbert Melendez today [Monday], it came out that he failed,” Trigg reminded of the former lightweight champion. “People who you never think of are failing today.

“Just go back through the list, with Anderson Silva and Jon Jones—the last little bit where they had problems with drugs one way or the other,” he continued. “Anderson’s, I know, is still up in the air. They are still trying to figure that one out. The reality of it is that people who you never think of are getting caught in today’s market. Think about before when they weren’t doing as much testing how many guys would have got blown out of the water.”

Recent UFC drug fails include Melendez, Jones, and Silva, who all held belts, and such popular fighters as Hector Lombard, Nick Diaz, and Chael Sonnen. Jones and Diaz popped positive for recreational drugs, which stands as a lesser offense—meriting a suspension of one year—under the policy that took effect on July 1.

Figuring out the stance of Jeff Blatnick, who wins posthumous induction into the UFC Hall of Fame this weekend, on performance-enhancing drugs does not require a hotline to the heavens. Blatnick, after missing the 1980 Olympics due to the boycott, won a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling in 1984 by beating a Swedish wrestler who popped positive for performance-enhancing drugs. So obsessed with competing clean was Blatnick that he rejected a Coke after his gold-medal winning match for fear that the caffeine might run afoul of the rules. He appropriately enters UFC’s Hall of Fame largely for his efforts to legitimize the sport just hours before the promotion’s first event under the new drug-testing regime.

“You got to be able be that guy to look at yourself in the mirror when you brush your teeth,” Bas Rutten told Breitbart Sports, “and you know if you see a real guy or a guy who had to use stuff.” The former UFC heavyweight champion and King of Pancrase noted that various organizations required testing in the sport’s early days.

“If I look in the mirror,” the UFC Hall of Fame inductee explained, “if I see an honest guy there, I think that is the most important for me. And I see an honest guy.”