Paul Hughes: Looking to Impress at His Final Cage Warriors Fight

Paul Hughes: Looking to Impress at His Final Cage Warriors Fight

Paul Hughes will end his 5-year promotional relationship with Cage Warriors at RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin on Saturday 6 April 2024.

He is scheduled to face the veteran Brazilian fighter, Fabiano Silva, at Cage Warriors 170. After this fight, he will be a free agent.

As one of the best MMA prospects in the world, the 26-year-old Lightweight will not be short of offers. He finds himself in a position where he can speak to all the major MMA promotions and decide where to fight next based on what is best for his career and for himself.

So, how did Paul ‘Big News’ Hughes get to where he is now?

Early Days

Paul Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia, but was brought up in Lavey, Co. Derry. He played Gaelic Football as a youth.

Hughes took his professional debut, aged 19, on one week’s notice. He fought Adam Gustab on 24 February 2017 on BAMMA 28 at the SSE Arena, Belfast. He won by first round TKO/KO.

Over the 12-month period from his pro debut, Hughes suffered four hand breaks. Multiple medical professionals advised him to stop fighting. In an attempt to fix the problem permanently, he had surgery on his right hand in March 2018.

When the plaster cast was removed from his hand after surgery, he was told he wouldn’t be able to fight for another 12 months. In his documentary film, “BELIEVE | Retirement to World Champion”, Paul Hughes described how he spent this period in Australia, working on a construction site. He also trained at the Australian Top Team MMA gym after work. Every day from Monday to Friday, he worked a 10-hour shift on the construction site and then went to the gym to train for 2-3 hours.

Return to Fighting

Paul Hughes’s second professional fight was on 9 March 2019, more than two years after his first. He fought Stephen O’Neill and again, won by first round TKO/KO.

Hughes was convinced he would become world champion one day. However, due to winning both of his pro fights by first round knockout, he found it difficult to find an opponent who was willing to fight him.

Although he was fighting in the Featherweight division, his next fight on 6 September 2019 was at short notice in Cage Warriors against a Lightweight, Mateusz Makarowski. The fight was set at a 164 lb catchweight. Hughes also won this fight by 1st round stoppage, this time by submission.

In his post-fight interview, Paul Hughes declared that he would become the Cage Warriors Featherweight Champion one day and would also become the UFC Featherweight Champion one day.

His next fight on 26 October 2019 was for the Cage Conflict Lightweight title against Kalifa Seydi. He won by first round submission.

Paul Hughes was now 4-0-0 with all of his wins coming by first round stoppage. He would now fight exclusively with Cage Warriors.

Paul Hughes vs Youri Panada

Hughes fought Youri Panada at Cage Warriors 112 on 7 March 2020. He enhanced his reputation as one of the best prospects in Cage Warriors by winning via a second round KO from a brutal head kick.

vs Aidan Stephen

Paul Hughes faced another hot prospect, Aidan Stephen, at Cage Warriors 116 on 26 September 2020. Hughes won by submission in the third round. He was now 6-0-0 with all of his wins coming by way of stoppage.

vs Jordan Vucenic

Matched with yet another hot prospect, Jordan Vucenic, at Cage Warriors 119 on 12 December 2020, Paul Hughes had his toughest fight to date. Although it was a close and really good fight, most observers felt that Hughes had won it. However, Vucenic was given the verdict by a controversial split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

vs James Hendin

With the opportunity to become the #1 contender in the Featherweight division, Paul Hughes faced James Hendin at Cage Warriors 120 on 18 March 2021. He won the fight by unanimous decision.

vs Morgan Charriere

Jordan Vucenic became the Cage Warriors Featherweight Champion by beating Morgan Charriere at Cage Warriors 122 on 20 March 2021. However, Vucenic suffered an injury and would be out for the next 12 months.

Paul Hughes was therefore matched to fight Morgan Charriere for the Cage Warriors Interim Featherweight title at Cage Warriors 128 on 1 October 2021. Hughes had been calling to fight Charriere since March 2020 and would finally get his wish.

This was a really good fight to watch, a tough fight and Hughes it won by majority decision. He was now the Cage Warriors Interim Featherweight Champion. When the decision was announced, he was overcome with emotion. All the years of hard work had paid off and Hughes had now achieved his goal of becoming the Cage Warriors Featherweight Champion.

vs Jordan Vucenic 2

Paul Hughes fought Jordan Vucenic for a second time on 4 November 2022. This time, it was for the Undisputed Cage Warriors Featherweight title. It was seen as the most anticipated rematch in Cage Warriors history.

It was a great fight and this time, Hughes left no doubt as to who the winner was. He was dominant throughout the fight, particularly in rounds four and five, which left Vucenic battered and bloodied. The judges scored it 49-46, 50-43 and 49-43 in favour of Paul Hughes.

Jordan Vucenic is very good and is being touted as a future UFC fighter, but Hughes showed his superiority and his outstanding qualities in this fight. The calls for the UFC to sign up Paul Hughes were now even louder.

Offers From the UFC

In his interview with Petesy Carroll on The Craic podcast, Hughes talked about two offers he received from the UFC in early 2023.

He was offered a short notice UFC fight in March 2023 against Lerone Murphy at Featherweight, which he had to turn down due to injury. Shortly afterwards, he was offered the opportunity, on two days notice, to appear on The Ultimate Fighter. He also had to turn this down due to the same injury.

Paul Hughes vs Jan Quaeyhaegens

For his next fight against Jan Quaeyhaegens at Cage Warriors 161 on 14 October 2023, Paul Hughes moved up to Lightweight. He told โ€œThe Auld Triangleโ€ Irish MMA podcast that he would not be able to make 145 lb again and will be staying at 155 lb now. He feels much better at Lightweight and is now able to focus his training on skill development rather than weight management.

Hughes won this fight by a first round KO from a great left hook.

Where is Paul Hughes Now?

Paul Hughes currently has a record of 10-1-0. Four of his wins came by KO/TKO, three by submission and three by decision.

His last appearance for Cage Warriors on Saturday in Dublin is against the Brazilian veteran, Fabiano Silva, who has a record of 34-15-1.

Hughes has had numerous opponent changes for his last fight. Silva was the fourth opponent change over the last week or so and there were other opponent changes before that. He said he is not at all bothered about late opponent changes. He is fully prepared and it doesn’t matter to him who he fights.

Although Paul Hughes fights out of Fight Academy Ireland in Belfast, he has also been training at the famed Kill Cliff FC in Florida.

Hughes is looking to impress in this fight. As he will be a free agent by Sunday, the world’s leading MMA promotions will surely be keeping a close eye on it. If he does join the UFC, it may also be the last time we see him fighting in Ireland for a while.

Another top quality performance will certainly strengthen his hand when it comes to negotiating with MMA promotions for his next contract.

If you're feeling generous:
Mark Lawson avatar