It’s been about eight months since Jeff “Lights Out” Hughes last stepped into a cage, but on March 9, 2019 in Wichita, Kansas, he will officially be announced as a UFC fighter. It’s been quite a journey for Hughes as he started his training almost 13 years ago when he was 17. He had a long amateur career, going 11-3 before turning professional in 2014. He then went on a tear, earning the LFA heavyweight title in the process. After defending the title, Hughes was offered a chance to fight on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series where he impressed the boss by knocking out Josh Appelt to win a UFC contract. The win, made Hughes’ dream come true and it took showing up on fight week to really sink in.
“It took a couple minutes of being here today to actually realize, man I’m in the UFC, like this for real. Seeing my name on the back of my shorts, it was like an awesome moment that I’ve been working for for so long, I’m nothing but happy about it.”
Hughes doesn’t think UFC jitters will be a problem for him.
“I think it’s more exciting than anything, everybody wants to make it the UFC when they start day one, so I’m just excited more than anything, rather than nervous.”
Now the newly UFC signed heavyweight feels he has more people’s respect.
“I think people now respect me as a fighter rather than a guy they think who is doing it for fun. They look at it now as he is a pretty tough guy.”
He now laughs at the people who are just jumping on the bandwagon.
“It’s like, where were you when I was fighting in front of 200 people?”
Hughes always knew he was going to make it to the big show even though it took a little bit longer than he thought he would.
“Since I started training at 17, I knew if I keep doing this and I keep working hard at it, I’m going to make the big show, and it took longer than I expected but everybody has expectations when they’re younger and they think they’re a little bit better than they really are. But I think everything happens for a reason and I’m happy it’s finally here.”
Being signed to the UFC has allowed Hughes to make a big change in his life, he quit his full-time job delivering shingles, which is more labor intensive than one would think. Now, he helps students with math part time but is mainly able to focus on training and not doing so withered down from work.
“I know there are some people who still have full time jobs and try to juggle this around and I don’t know if I could’ve done it much longer. Man I was like, I can’t keep working ten hours a day throwing shingles and then going to train for three hours and having a good training session, your body starts to break down after awhile and it started to, I was like, man I gotta do something else, I gotta get to the big show.”
Hughes said this has led him to grow technically and have the best cardio of his career. Another important aspect of this camp was to have former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic around for his entire camp. Miocic, a long time teammate of Hughes’ wasn’t in camp for a fight himself but came into the Strong Style gym in Ohio just to help Hughes out and Hughes is extremely grateful for it.
“He’s helped me out so much, he’s not in camp right now, he’s focusing a lot on me. He was coming into practice just for me, it’s one of the greatest honors to have this guy come in and help me and show me little tricks and techniques.”
“He’s helped me out more ways than I can even explain.”
Though he has improved over the long layoff, Hughes wanted it to be much sooner but the matchmakers didn’t make him an offer so he had to wait. Then when he was offered to face Daniel Spitz, a three fight UFC veteran, he jumped at it. But it wasn’t to be as Spitz got hurt in training camp. Hughes was given a choice after Spitz was injured, face a short notice opponent, or fight on a different card, for Hughes, it was an easy decision as he was done waiting.
“It was more or less like take this opponent or you might have to wait a couple more months to get on a different card. I just didn’t want to do that, I wanted to…this is what I do and once I found out who it was, I said he, I fought him before, we can do this again.”
That opponent is Maurice “The Crochet Boss” Greene, who has since gone on to star in The Ultimate Fighter season 28 and pick up a win in the UFC cage against Michel Batista via submission. Hughes originally fought Greene while defending his LFA heavyweight title at LFA 38 which he won over five rounds in a unanimous decision. Having to fight Greene again isn’t a big deal to Hughes though he doesn’t expect it to be an easy fight.
‘I’m not disappointed we have a rematch, I respect Maurice, to be honest with you, it was probably my toughest fight that I’ve had. When we fought the first time it was five hard rounds, nothing but respect for the dude. He wants to get one back and I respect him for taking it on short notice, so I gotta be ready for it.”
Hughes says his keys to victory are the same as the last time they fought, keep the pedal on the gas.
“I know that if I keep my foot on the gas I’m hard to deal with for anybody, so that’s the game plan I guess, in simple terms is to keep your foot on the gas and do what we did before but better.”
In his interviews, Greene has said he thinks Hughes is a good guy but he wasn’t impressed when he lost to him. Mostly, he said Hughes didn’t beat him, he just lost the fight. For Hughes, he thinks Greene is just trying to motivate himself with talk like that.
“If that’s how he feels that’s how he feels. If that’s how he has to get pumped up for the fight that’s cool by me man. We’re gonna have to figure it out on Saturday night just like anybody else.”
With a victory, Hughes says he would like a quick turnaround and believes he can enter the UFC top 15 rankings by next year.
“I’d like to move up quick, if all things go well I’d like to have a quick turnaround, possibly fight in June or July, one of those, whenever they would have me next. I think I can do some damage in this division, it’s wide open right now, a lot of new guys coming in, a lot of the older guys going out. So, it’s going to be interesting in the next couple of years to watch the heavyweight division.”
“Honestly, I think I’m a tough fight for anybody, when I come in on my A game I’m a tough fight. I respect all the guys in the division, they’re all very tough and they’re very skilled fighters but I feel like I belong in there and I think like I can get some pretty big wins in the next year or two.”
“I’d like to crack the top 15 within the next year or so.”