Meet the fighters – Connor Hughes

I’m gonna start a little mini-series of blogs called “Meet the fighters”, where I’ll do an interview with members of our gym and their upcoming bouts.

In each one I’ll do a basic intro of their background, maybe a little bit about them in my own words (how I come to meet them/train with them), and then an interview covering their next fight or tournament.

At the bottom I’ll finish off with some generic questions that everyone will get asked the same.

First up has to be Connor Hughes, who has entered the prestigious PFL Europe, and faces Dylan Tuke, formerly of Connor McGregor’s gym SBG Ireland.

On the face of it we appear to have a classic grappler vs striker matchup, with the slick submissions of the 5-3 Tuke going up against the karate protégé, Hughes.

Connor was a pleasure to talk to – he’s definitely been media trained ahead of this massive fight on the big stage 😉

He’s 7 and 0, all finishes, and was in a confident mood when I caught up with him this week.

Q: How’s training going?  How has the camp been, have you done anything different?

I know everyone says it but this has seriously been my best camp ever.  Everything’s just a lot more ‘dialled in’.

I’ve got a nutritionist on board and the volumes gone up, added more wrestling, my game overall has gone up.

Recently got my purple belt, I’m just evolving as a fighter.

Q: What does Dylan Tuke bring?

His main option is to get me to the mat/take my back, finish me that way.

But to be honest he’s perfect for me.  I think he’s gonna struggle. I’m his hardest fight by far.

His long limbs and body type is the only problem I can see him bring, but stylisticly I can beat him everywhere.

Q; What can we expect July 8th?

I’m not taking him lightly, I know what stage this is.  I’m taking him out.

Q: Any common opponents?

None.  He’s a former featherweight, I’m a massive lightweight.

Q: Going forward, what’s the big plan after this fight/tournament/career?

This is the ¼ finals, after I win this I’m looking on staying with the PFL.  I originally wanted to move onto the PFL League and fight for the million dollars, but if I win this, the PFL have said there’s a potential Liverpool card next March, where I’ll defend the title, headlining in M&S (Echo) arena.  The ball’s in their court – I’m happy to commit to them another 2 or 3 years.

Following MMA, I’m looking on opening my own gym.  My mum has her own gym, I was heavily involved there but have had to take a step back with how my own career is taking off.  I might even look into branching out with Jason and another MMA Academy if I can.  I’m 26 now, I’ve got at least 10-15 years left in me.  I want to make money but I want to leave a legacy.

When I’m done, people will still be talking about me.  That’s my goal.

Q: You’re looking in tremendous shape and huge for the weight.  Are you a career 155lb’er, or will we see you at 170lbs in the future?

I think the majority of my career will be at Lightweight, I’d love to do that “champ champ” status though, and win titles at Welterweight.

The aim is to exhaust what I can do at 155 before stepping up to 170.  Loads of people jump too soon, and then try and move back down later.  Not me.  Let’s clear out the division then do it properly.

Q; When are you flying out and flying home?

We fly out with Wednesday morning of fight week, and come home the Sunday.  PFL have booked flights for 7.45am Sunday morning, but I’m gonna book my own for Sunday night so I can chill with my family.

I’ve fought abroad before but now MMA, so I’ve not cut weight whilst travelling.  I’m not worried, though.  The planning within the team has been meticulous and everything’s on point.

Q: And finally…where can we tune in?

It’s live on DAZN.  Starts 4pm UK time.  I’m 5th on the card – perfect for everyone back home.

So that’s enough about you personally Con, now onto some quick fire generic questions that I’ll ask each and every Academy fighter:-

Reason you started

Sounds a little bit egotistical, this, but I was junior World champion in kickboxing and karate, junior European and British champ, fought on the GB team for 6 years running…it was like “yeah I can go up and do the same in the adult divisions and that” but there was no longevity in it.  Watching UFC on the telly, I could see that MMA was the pinnacle.  You can’t call yourself the best fighter on the planet if you’re just a boxer.  What if someone takes you down?  I want to leave a legacy as the best fighterin the world!

Best attribute

Obviously my striking is highly touted, but people overlook my timing, my accuracy, my ability to read a shot in a fast time setting.  But above all I’d say my mentality, to be honest.  My work ethic – I came the MMA Academy and was getting done in by all youse, especially you, Seddo (*- Connor may or may not have actually said this part) for like four years straight, and I’m not shy of critique within myself.  I’ve worked on myself relentlessly to evolve.

My mindset really separates me from rest.  I don’t suffer from nerves.  On fight night I’m fully aware that I’m climbing into a cage with the possibility of being embarrassed in front of my family.  But at the same time I know I’m in the gym 2 or 3 times per day, the work is done.

I’ve never had a mind coach, I don’t need one.  I just watch motivational videos constantly, they’ve always resonated with me.  It sounds mad but I’ve always been a bit different to other kids growing up, and seen myself as destined for greatness.

Hardest Spar

When I first started, everybody was a hard round here.  The likes of Chris Green, Tim Barnett and Mark Glover used to give me nightmares.

Nowadays. Loz (Lawrence Fitzpatrick) and Kurtis (Campbell) are my hardest rounds.

Loz is by far the toughest for everyone, and the rounds with Kurt are like a chess match – there’s no room for error.  Iron sharpens iron and our levels have both just rocketed lately.

Outside of the gym, honestly…I don’t half notice the skill difference when I go to spar elsewhere or when they come down here.  We’re just so well-rounded here.  We’re on another level.

Walk out music and why

I love my RnB music.  For this fight I’m walking out to Hunger on Hillside by J.Cole.  I change my music fight by fight, and will do that until I find the song that resonates perfectly and I go “Ok – now THAT’s my song!”

Until then I just go with a song that puts me somewhere mentally.  This one I feel like the lyrics in it kind of suit the moment – the hunger to get where he was and now that he’s in the moment he’s not gonna let it drop.

Post weigh in meal and pre-fight meal…and most importantly…post-fight meal

After the weigh in I have 4 or 5 hydration drinks, and don’t start eating until the 4th one, some Jelly Babies, Haribos, stuff like that.

Later on it’s a Nandos – chicken butterfly, spicy rice and a garlic bread, that’s my go to.  Only a medium heat – I’m not a spicy guy!

On fight day it’s a chicken pasta for my main meal, high carb!

Then after the fight it’s usually a Dominos as I’m always on quite late and everywhere else is closed.

Then for the next few days I’m all about the brekkies!  There’s a place in Ormskirk called Cobble.  Lad it’s the best breakfast gaff every – the pancakes, bacon, maple syrup…its heavy!  I’ve got that booked Monday morning and then the Cowshed Monday night.

I’ll be at least 85kg by the Tuesday so that’s why I’m getting loads of pictures with my top off now.