“I’ve switched things up a little bit,” he says. “I went to a lot of training camps, went out a lot to different places and didn’t stay home near as much.”
One of those outside camps visited by Hughes (42-7) was Greg Nelson’s Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, home to former and current UFC champions Sean Sherk, Dave Menne and Brock Lesnar.
“We just basically got him into the fold of our training camp, and we all worked together,” Nelson says. “We have Sean training for Frankie Edgar. We have Brock Larson training for his fight the same weekend. [Hughes is] kind of the king of the hill at his own school, so it’s nice to come to another spot where they have a lot of guys who are high-level grapplers and high-level fighters that could put him in jeopardy and push him. And we worked on all the same stuff: punching to takedowns, submissions on the ground, full-on grappling, sparring, the whole ball of wax.”
As an aging fighter heading into a bout where there is both bragging rights and to a lesser extent legacy issues on the line, Hughes is wise to deviate from a potentially stale path he could fall into doing a rinse and repeat camp at H.I.T. Squad. The upside to training at MMAA is significant for any fighter, but for Hughes it provides some clear insurance in terms of establishing good cardiovascular fitness, getting the right kind and enough of the right training partner as well as pre-fight strategy under the eye of masterful tacticians. Greg Jackson appropriately receives accolades for his strategizing, but he does not have a monopoly on how to game plan for fights in professional MMA. Nelson is quite adept as well and by the sound of it, Hughes is going to stick to his strengths while making the slight adjustments necessary to handle the eccentricities of Serra's attacks:
“What you have to watch out for with Matt [Serra], more than anything, is that when he’s up on his feet, he holds nothing back,” Nelson says. “When he throws a punch, he’s going for it. It may not be pretty, but if it lands, you’re going to be in trouble. A lot of times, people always train for the guy who’s throwing the nice, straight punches and the pretty boxing, but what do you usually get hit by? The crazy shot that comes flying out of nowhere. I watched a lot of Matt Serra and kind of imitated the way he throws his punches and kind of threw wild shots at [Hughes], as well as clean shots.”
I certainly do not doubt Serra's camp is rigorous and the strategy meticulous, but I've yet to see evidence he's being immersed in the bubbling cauldron of fight camp similar to what Hughes is receiving at MMAA.