Friday, January 11, 2008

An Inside Look at Matt Hughes' "Made in America": Part I

I zipped through about 200 pages yesterday in Made in America, Matt Hughes' new autobiography. Overall, the book is easy to read and pretty entertaining. In this post, I'll discuss the chapters (1-4) leading up to Hughes' foray into the MMA world.

Chapter One is "This Is Farm Life." Not just a clever name. The book kicks off with (surprise, surprise) the birth of Matt and his twin brother Mark and a Rockwellian description of life in 1970's Hillsboro, IL: friendly, simple people who wear blue jeans, work hard, and sleep with their front doors unlocked. You've heard it all before.

Matt briefly explores the dichotomy of his childhood in rural Illinois; there was the endless fun he and Mark enjoyed on and around the family farm, but there was also the family's hardship after the Federal Land Bank Association set the price for farm land. As a result, the Hughes' farm went from 1,500 acres to about 700 acres, and Hughes' father felt the pressure to keep his family and his farm afloat during these tough times.

I enjoyed reading about Matt and Mark as little kids. Naturally, the fraternal twins were very close and very competitive, but from what I've gathered, it was Matt who took competitiveness to another level. The first chapter, for example, ends with the following: "I was so bad at athletics in junior high that my brother Mark beat me." Here comes the dickhead we've been waiting to read about...

In high school, Mark made the varsity wrestling squad and lettered as a freshman. "He can't be the number one wrestler in the family," Matt thought. Matt then challenged for a varsity spot, won, and the guy he beat then moved down in weight, beat Mark, and bumped him off the varsity squad. To Matt's credit, though, he looks back on this moment with regret. Or so he says...

Matt's relationship with Mark can be summed up aptly with the following line: "That's who I root for right before and right after I punch him in the face." Take that as you will.

Did you know that Matt Hughes drove an '84 Camaro in high school? That's more of a Matt Serra car than a Matt Hughes car, no? Hughes was given the car as a gift from his maternal grandfather whose paper route Matt and Mark took over as teenagers.

If you're one of those people who vehemently dislikes Matt Hughes, read what he writes about his dad. It explains a lot.

Oh, and by the way, Mark Hughes is the man! He's a physically stronger version of Matt and has a much worse temper. The stories of Mark Hughes beating some ass were particularly entertaining.

I also got a kick out of the chapter where the Hughes boys go to college. We meet Marc Fiore (the TUF 6 Team Serra coach), a wrestling teammate who reached college without knowing how to read or write. In one heartwarming account, Matt recalls the time he, Mark, and Fiore went to visit the Hughes' Uncle Jack to help with some work around the farm. Matt and Mark taught Fiore how to properly cut off a pig's balls, and then chased him down while throwing pig testicles and dead piglets at Fiore's face. Thank God I grew up in the suburbs.

We also first hear about Frank Trigg, who's not-so-affectionately described as "the kind of guy who's mysteriously tan at Christmastime," in the same chapter. Trigg beat Mark in a wrestling match and went on to become a National Champion, but Matt wrote: "It's just too bad he never really made anything of himself." I laughed.

In college, the Hughes brothers (and Fiore) were definitely meathead pranksters. My favorite story is when Matt and Mark go to a fraternity party and have no luck picking up the ladies. Confused and bored, they fall back on Plan B: fight. Mark rummages through the frat house for food and pisses off a fraternity brother. Matt is confronted, pretends he's drunk, and then promptly lifts the fraternity brother off the ground and slams him through the window. The lights are somehow turned off amidst the ruckus, so Matt and Mark run outside and then take turns blasting frat brothers in the face as soon as they step out the door.

After college, a wrestler whom Matt knew asked Matt to help him prepare for an MMA fight. Impressed with Matt's wrestling prowess and raw athleticism, the friend got Matt booked in a couple of small shows in Chicago. After one early fight, the referee told Hughes, "I can make a champion out of you." That referee was Pat Miletich.

Stay tuned for An Inside Look at Matt Hughes' Made in America: Part II.

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