A Fighting Chance: Hughes Brings MMA Skills to Sandhills
At a stage in life when most pro athletes are winding up their careers, Larry "Chuck" Hughes is just getting started.
Unbeaten in his first four bouts, Hughes, 39, is the Sandhills' only pro Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
Hughes is the Battle Fighting Championship Lightweight champion, winning the belt on Jan. 24 when mixed martial arts fighting returned to North Carolina.
He won the bout by second round technical knockout due to strikes.
Hughes has a background in martial arts. He has practiced serveral disciplines since age 6. He began Jiu-Jitsu in 2001 and moved to MMA in 2006.
He is sponsored by Cageside MMA, and is a member of Team ROC - Reality of Combat.
He has live in N.C. since 1987 and resides in Jackson Springs with his family. Currently he trains in Fayetteville and at Martial Arts Academy of Southern Pines, 105 A East Connecticut Ave.
Roy Marsh is the head instructor at the Academy. Hughes is a lead instructor who teaches a popular form of MMA combat known as Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Students of all ages are welcome. MMA classes are offered Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday nights.
For more information on these or other classes go online to www.maaspi.com or call 910-692-2164 or 910-603-1967.
During class Hughes bounces effortlessly between students. He keeps the pace quick and the instruction and the encouragement are as steady as the punches and kicks students practice.
"Don't be weak," he urges one student.
"Keep you hands up," he says to another.
Proper technique, patience and ultimately safety are at the forefront of the lesson.
"Remember the first time you were taught an arm bar, you didn't do it right, did you?," Hughes says to his students.
"It took a couple of thousand repetitions (to get it right). Same thing with these kicks and punches," he says.
It is that attention to detail and drive for perfection that pushes Hughes beyond the point where others stop.
At 5-10 and about 160 pounds, Hughes doesn't have imposing size.
He does have an imposing look.
A shaved head and goatee earned Hughes the nickname, "Chuck" in honor of MMA legend Chuck "The Ice Man" Liddell. His wiry frame is covered with tattoos. And the fire that burns in his icy stare can be intimidating.
But when you listen to him talk about his wife and daughters, his sport, his friends and fellow MMA combatants, you begin to understand that the old adage about not judging a book by its cover applies to Hughes.
"He is one of the good guys in a sport that is filled with humble, honorable people," Marsh says of his friend.
Stamina is the Key
Marsh and Hughes both will tell you that the key to being a successful MMA fighter is stamina.
"When you get tired, you get lazy with your technique and then you get hurt," Hughes says.
To prevent fatigue from stopping him, Hughes is dedicated to his cardiovascular fitness during training. Running, jumping rope and functional training are all part of his routine.
When preparing for an MMA fight, Hughes trains 5-6 hours a day. His training habits are intense, and depending on who you ask, might be considered maniacal.
"Some of the guys call me Dr. Evil," Hughes says. "I sit there and create workouts in my mind. I think this will really be sick and I try it. Sometimes they work and we keep them, other times we do them once and never again."
One of favorite workouts is the card deck workout. The workout features four different exercises -- one for each suit in a standard deck of cards.
Participants flip a card of the top of the deck, and perform the exercise dictated by the suit in the denomination on the card. Aces are one repetition and face cards are 10.
Minimal rest is give between each card flip, and the workout is completed when all 52 cards in the deck have been turned over.
Once during an animal workout -- which features non-stop exercises named for animals, like bear crawls, crab walks, kangaroo jumps, etc -- Hughes pushed himself near the point of breaking.
"I almost puked," he said, "I felt it come up, but I swallowed it. I couldn't stop (the workout) because I didn't want those young guys to beat me."
A Rough Sport
Hughes says the toughest part of being a competitive MMA fighter is the wear and tear on the body.
During his career in martial arts he has suffered broken ribs, a broken nose, and other broken bones.
He doesn't, however, worry about the pain or damage he can inflict on opponents.
"It is their responsibility to protect themselves and tap (give up) if they are in a bad spot," he says of his opponents.
One of Hughes' opponents didn't tap, and Hughes broke his arm.
But for a man who some view as violent, Hughes is very respectful to everyone he meets.
When asked about his success he humbly credits his instructors, his friends and his fellow fighters for helping him to be better.
For those interested in the sport, Hughes has some advice. First be committed to what you are doing. Know that it will be physically and mentally demanding, and remember to work hard.
"Check you ego and pride at the door. Remember its supposed to be fun, so have fun with it. But be willing to learn and have and open mind," Hughes says.
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2477 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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